Waking the Dead (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs down

To paraphrase Chandler Bing, "could this movie be any worse?" Well, frankly, yes. It could be the exact same movie without Jennifer Connolly's topless scene. It could be the same DVD without the additional deleted topless scene. Jennifer's chest, one of the best in the world, is a good reason to look at any movie. But I sure can't think of many more reasons to look at this one.

Here's the set-up. Jennifer Connolly and Billy Crudup are a typical conflicted couple in the early 70's. Although they agree on the world they want, they don't agree on how to get there. Crudup wants to be a U.S. Senator, maybe president, and change the system from within. Connolly is an outspoken left-wing activist who wants to tear the system down, with revolution if necessary.

They can see that their lives are coming into conflict. Crudup, a politician, needs to avoid making enemies, but when Connolly attends parties with him, she expresses her outspoken views, and tells people what she really thinks of them.


Connolly is on top of Crudup in a love scene, and her gigantic left breast is exposed.

In the deleted scenes, Connolly is seen in another love scene, this time on the bottom.

They love each other, but it's obvious that Connolly is never going to be the ideal politician's wife. The situation seems to be resolved when Connolly is killed in Chile while on a mercy mission with some priests, except that eight years later Crudup seem to be seeing her again, hearing her voice. Then she calls on the phone. Then she's actually there. Or is she?

Two possibilities:

  1. Connolly faked her death because she needed to go underground and she needed to make sure that Crudup had a politically correct wife/partner to realize his ambitions.
  2. Crudup is really going crazy because their relationship ended with no closure and he can't let go.

I saw the movie, and I still don't know which it was.


Let me revise that. I know, but the Crudup character did not.

She had to be real in the way the script was written, because the vision he followed one night led him to the church where the same priests were now assigned - the people who were involved with Connolly's death. If he was following a mirage, how could he get to the exact church were the priests were now working?

Crudup did not know they had been relocated to a new church, or where that Church might be!

Therefore, he could not have been following his own imagination. Therefore, he must have been following somebody who knew where the priests were, and that had to be Connolly taking refuge provided by the priests.

In addition, of course, I saw her footprints in the snow as she was running from him, and so should he have. As far as I know, mirages don't leave footprints. He, however, could not figure this out, presumably because the author simply didn't think of it.

Man, this movie is so-o-o-o dull. I don't know how people stayed awake during its theatrical run, Well, I guess not that many people gave it the opportunity. The direction is clichéd, repetitive and irritating. He relies on two "tics".

  • First, he whites out for every scene transition, so the entire film seems about as sophisticated as an old episode of Electra Woman and Dynagirl. Maybe he also made a "whooshing" sound when he did that, or maybe I just imagined it. I don't know, Babs, but I do know this - I ain't watchin' it again to find out.
  • Second, he does those stop-start things constantly, where the character says the first sentence of something, then the director cuts back and repeats the first sentence again before continuing, and you get that "jump" effect in the character's head movements. I guess this was designed to show Crudup's agitation and disorientation, but it's really irritating.

Most of the film seems to be either Crudup and Connolly looking into each other's eyes and feeling the heat or the pain, or Crudup whining and sniveling because he misses her so much. How much of that maudlin b.s. can you take?

In addition to the pacing, there is no character to latch on to. Crudup often seems cruelly single-minded in his ambition. Connolly often seems moronic in her simplistic world-view. They often say cruel things to each other in cruel ways, not in the respectful ways that people who care for each other find to express dissenting opinions. Crudup and Connolly are beautiful people and can easily play sympathetic lovers, but they didn't have the tools to build that kind of connection in this script.

Ultimately, that means that you don't care if they split up or get together or live or die. You just want them to do it fast so you can do something else.

DVD info from Amazon.

Anamorphic 1.85:1, good transfer. The film looks good.

3o minutes of deleted footage, and a full-length commentary by director Keith Gordon.

They cut a full 30 minutes of footage to try to make the pacing peppier, but it's still not peppy, and with the cuts they dropped several sub-plots with no explanation to the viewer.

Because of the edits, it is not clear to us why they had the former congressman (Ed Harris, a pretty big star reduced to a cameo by the cuts) in the plot, or why they belabored the sub-plot with the brother's girlfriend. Certain references make no sense, although they would follow logically if the deleted scenes were still in the film.

But I sure as hell support the cuts. Personally, I would have cut 105 of the remaining 106 minutes, and just released it as a naked Connolly .mpeg.


Waking the Dead (1999) opened on 62 screens on March 26, 2000. The following week, it was down to 48 screens, and 13 the week after. Total gross was less than $1 meg. DVD release was September 16, but there was some initial problem with distribution, and it took several more months to become widely available.

The title must refer to the monumental problem the ushers had clearing the unconscious audience from the theater after each screening.

As the film begins, Fielding Pierce (Billy Crudup) sees a news story that his true love, Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly), has been killed in a car explosion. We then begin two threads -- one starting in 1972, where Fielding meets and beds Sarah, and one in 1982, where Fielding runs for congress while trying to cope with the loss of his true love.

Fielding meets Sarah at the offices of his brother's magazine, and they fall instantly in love despite their political differences. While they are both liberal Democrats, she is a total idealist, and he is more practical. He is in the Coast Guard to dodge the draft, yet not kill his chances of holding a political office. She believes that it is immoral of him to join any military branch. He is ambitious, wanting to climb up from his middle class working man roots, while she is a compulsive do-gooder. The brother, played by Paul Hipp, is a caricature of Sonny Bono at his hippest and worst.

The non-linear time sequence, which was used effectively by Atom Egoyan in nearly all of his best films (The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica, etc.), and in great films like Fight Club, doesn't work here. As a matter of fact, with each shift, they have to print the year on the screen just to keep the audience from getting confused. This is due, in part, to the fact that the two threads are only 10 years apart, are set in the same locations, and involve the same characters, so they don't look much different.

If you still plan on seeing this, skip the rest of the review, as it has spoilers.

Fielding begins to fall apart just as his dreams of going to congress begin to seem possible. The reason? Sarah is either alive, or he is hallucinating that she is. Director Keith Gordon worked very hard to make sure that we never got enough information to decide which was the case, to the point of deleting several scenes, and some sub-plot, when test audiences were able to defend a point of view that Sarah was actually alive. Sarah works for a priest assisting Chileans to find asylum. Fielding and Sarah have lunch at the church, and a big fight. In the deleted portion of the scene, one of the Chilean women remarks that she looks much like Sarah, and is exactly the same size. In the following scene, Sarah returns home and informs Fielding that she wants to get pregnant. There is a long and steamy love scene, at the end of which, she stops him before ejaculation and says she can't get pregnant.

Armed with these two pieces of information, the audiences believed they could prove that she was alive and in hiding, and that it was actually the Chilean girl who was in the car. The idea was to turn government policy against the evil Chilean government.

As the film ends, Fielding still doesn't know if Sarah is live or Memorex, but decides that he can go on either way. I have no idea why Gordon worked so hard to avoid resolution, but, long before the end, I stopped caring. Most of the nudity was in the deleted scenes anyway, and there was no other possible reason to watch this film. Also irritating to me was a lot of strange lighting which seems to have been used because Gordon liked strange lighting rather than to establish mood or atmosphere.

Connelly certainly did have impressive breasts. She found a more worthy role for them elsewhere.

The Critics Vote ...

  • General consensus: About two stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 1.5/4.

  • In all fairness, there were people who liked this movie very much. For example, Renaissance Online rated it A-, If you want to read her case, click here.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.2 out of 10. Women rated it much higher than men (7.0 to 6.0), and people under 30 rated it much higher than people over 30 (6.6 to 5.4).
  • With their dollars ... It took in only $300,000 at the box, and was never shown on more than 62 screens.

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