1997, Nick Cassavetes

If nothing else, She’s So Lovely is certainly an interesting movie. Written by John Cassavetes before he passed with the intention of him making it in the ’80s, the script passed along to his son Nick, who finally brought it to the screen eight years after his father’s passing. The elder Cassavetes had the intention of making it with Sean Penn in the leading role and Nick carried on with that decision, selecting Penn to portray Eddie, the missing husband of pregnant Maureen (real life partner of Penn at the time).

It’s hard to get into the plot of the film without feeling like I’m giving away too much, but suffice it to say that Maureen’s search for Eddie doesn’t end very well and when they finally do reunite things turn even more south for both of them. About half of the film takes place in this time period, before jumping forward ten years to when they find one another again after a lengthy separation. The shift in time also sees Cassavetes really shift the tone, as the dark and edgy past is segued into a more bizarrely comic present. The actors are game for it, with Penn and Wright convincingly portraying the fragile emotions that would come from those years apart and John Travolta doing solid work as Maureen’s new beau, but it’s that shift in tone that makes She’s So Lovely a bit of a confusing journey.

It feels too dramatic to be a comedy, but there are too many comedic moments for it to really work as the hard drama that the script feels like it should be and so it exists in this grey area that doesn’t really work. I found myself getting quite involved in the first half of the film, thanks primarily to the superb work from Penn and Wright, who both dive fully into their characters with all of their flaws and nagging quirks. When that time shift occurred though, my interest began to fade somewhat as the characters they built in the first act didn’t seem to make a lot of sense anymore. It felt like that abrupt jump made Cassavetes lose sight of who these people were, almost as if his father wrote the first half of the film and then he tried to finish it.

The script pulses with the kind of dark study of human nature, the co-dependency of these two wayward souls that you would expect from John, but perhaps this is one that should have been passed to someone outside of the family because it doesn’t seem like Nick was capable of harnessing that gravity his father was trying to achieve. The cast shines all the way through though, despite some directorial faults, with Penn and Wright at the top of their game and a lot of solid supporting work from actors like Harry Dean Stanton and John’s widow Gena Rowlands showing up for a brief and effective scene with Penn. There was a lot of potential here in She’s So Lovely, but it doesn’t quite seem like Nick Cassavetes was up to the task set forth by his late father.

C

Film #254 of The 365 Film Challenge.