She's So Lovely (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Renegade filmmaker John Cassavetes, a true pioneer in the independent auteur movement, died in 1989, but his legacy is strong enough that he's still making movies, in a sense. Just as people are still making films from old Orson Welles scripts (The Big Brass Ring), or even old Ed Wood scripts (I Woke Up Early The Day I Died), unfilmed Cassavetes scripts are still treasured in some circles.

This particular circle includes his ex-wife, who appears in the film, and his son, who directed it from John's script. Nick Cassavetes seems to understand the emotional territory quite well, and has cast three talented Cassavetes fans in the roles which once might have been played by Rolands, Gazzara and Falk.

Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, and John Travolta play a twisted love triangle in this offbeat film about people lost on the fringes of society.


The Penns play a young alcoholic couple, shown 10 years ago in moments of rhapsodic bliss and booze-fueled craziness. Although they have a great passion for each other, that passion occasionally suffers a metamorphosis into violence and irrational behavior. Penn disappears for three days in some kind of hazy bender, during which time Wright is assaulted by an unpleasant neighbor in their fleabag hotel.

Wright fears that Penn will go crazy when he finds out, and she's right. He gets drunk and out of control, and ends up shooting a member of a medical rescue team.

Penn ends up spending 10 years institutionalized, although he seems to think it was only three months. He didn't have the firmest grip on reality when he was young, but after 10 years in the wacko ward he seems to have lost all concept of time.

DVD info from Amazon.

2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, enhanced for 16x9 screens.

Actor round table about John Cassavetes

Documentary about John Cassavetes

Interview with Nick Cassavetes.

During Penn's stay in the nuthatch, Wright cleaned herself up, raised the baby she conceived with Penn, got married, and raised two more kids in the suburbs with a solid citizen (John Travolta). But when Penn is released, she essentially reverts back to the old days, as if the ten years under control were only a break from her true destiny. When Penn shows up on her doorstep, she drives off with him, leaving Travolta and her children behind.

I think the best thing about the movie was the brilliant charcaterization by Sean Penn. He gets inside the character beautifully, as he always does, showing the heights and depths of the mad passion that ruled his youth, and showing the soft but resigned madness that dominated the personality 10 years later. He may no longer have been violent, but he was still as crazy as ever.

And Wright must have been equally loony in her own fashion, since she casually tossed away her 10 years of life to recapture the intensity of former madness. Can madness itself be addictive so that we crave it, cannot live without it once we've tasted it?

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: critics liked it much better than moviegoers. Three stars across the board. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Maltin 3/4, Apollo 83.

  • As evidence that it is a critic's movie rather than an audience movie, note that it was well-received at Cannes, and Cassavetes was nominated for the Palme d'Or.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.9, Apollo users 73/100.
  • With their dollars ... it took in only $7 million at the box despite an $18 million budget. It is a film that dwells in the very emotional depths of the gutter, and can be excellent at times, but is not a mass-audience entertainment.
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C, except for the fact that the performances are exceptionally good, and non-Cassavetes fans may love it just for the sheer exhuberance of the presentation.

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