Guinevere (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I don't think I have to tell you much to let you know whether you want to watch this. You will probably know after the fist sentence of the next paragraph, the second at the latest. It's the kind of film that people love or hate, depending to a great degree on their age and gender.

A shy, socially uncomfortable young girl postpones her entry into Harvard so that she can learn about life from an experienced, world-weary older man. The tag line: "He was her first love... she was his last". He is a photographer, so he is capable of exposing her to certain types of experiences and people far outside the sphere of her upper-middle class family, which consists entirely of Harvard-trained lawyers who debate fine legal niceties at the dinner table. The photographer is also an alcoholic which, coupled with his age, assures that he will not be the long-term love of her life, but merely her designated tutor and coming-of-age experience.

You know from the first five minutes or so that the relationship is doomed. It would have been enough to show us that he drinks 24/7 and has one foot in the grave, but just to make sure we don't miss the point, the story also begins in the present with her voice-over narration, which assures us that their relationship began five years ago and is now over. Given that certainty, the only dramatic tension comes from a certain doubt about what effect the relationship will have on each of them. Well, unless you count the dramatic tension generated by the fact that he might die at any minute.

Despite my kidding about the lack of plot development and surprise, their relationship does have a proper ending that was both emotional and appropriate, and you may not be expecting it to end that way. It is sad, but also satisfying in a certain way. Unfortunately, the film drags on anti-climactically for much too long after that separation.

The woman trying to come of age is played by the ever-pasty, oh-so-vulnerable and preternaturally icy Sarah Polley. The world-weary Irish artist is played by ... gee, can you guess who might assay this role? It's that seething volcano of passion and emotion, Stephen Rea. Talk about a guy with only one facial expression! Rea must be the world-weariest of the world-weary actors, a man so jaded and unflappable that if the world were to end by nuclear war, you'd expect him to use a glowing radioactive rock to light his cigarette, then heave a stagy, practiced sigh.

Polley and Rea. Whoa - the sparks really fly when you rub those two together, eh?

Talk about low octane!


Sarah Polley's left breast falls out of her towel when she bends over to pick something up. I'm not sure if Sarah or the director knew this had actually happened.

Polley and Sandra Oh, along with a third woman, may or may not be showing their breasts  in a photograph-within-the-film

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic.

  • no features

I'm not really the right guy to evaluate this kind of movie, but I guess it must be pretty decent, because if I had read my own description above, I would never have watched it in the first place, yet I managed to crawl through it without any coffee breaks or fast-forwarding. I didn't love it, but the point is that I didn't hate it, despite its complete lack of energy and a concept that didn't really interest me. The one thing that makes it work is that it was written and directed by a woman, and I think she told a story which was pretty damned close to the truth, right down to the clumsy sex scenes.

The truth - what a shocking concept! Hollywood ought to try it.

Two unimportant observations:

1. While she is not a great beauty, Sarah Polley is moderately attractive - until she opens her mouth. I can't decide whether her failure to get her teeth and gums fixed is a tremendously courageous personal statement of individuality in an otherwise plastic world, or whether it's just a dumb move for someone who has to make a living with people staring at her face in close-up. Sarah has, by far, the raggediest teeth of any well-known star, possible excepting Bruce the Shark. Compared to Sarah, Jewel's dental work seems as perfect as Amanda Peet's.

2. There is one other key question raised by this film. Is Jean Smart the grade-b Kim Cattrall, or vice-versa?

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: three stars. James Berardinelli 3/4, Roger Ebert 3.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • It was made for a modest $2.6 million, and grossed a modest $600,000. Critics liked it. Audiences took no notice.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own 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. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). 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. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. If you like this type of flick, you will probably love this one. I don't like this kind of flick, and still thought it was OK.

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