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The Myth of Fingerprints
Starring Noah Wyle, Roy Scheider, Blythe Danner, Julianne Moore
Written and Directed by Bart Freundlich

If I've told this story before, well I'm gonna do it again. It bears repeating. Cranky and a big shot TV reviewer were riding up to a screening room a couple of months ago and we got into a discussion about how we decide to see which "independent" movies we see. It's not an idle conversation; Cranky averaged 3 movies a week last year, this guy even more.

We were in agreement that, in almost all cases, first time writer director combinations were almost always off the plate, unless there was a buzz coming from those masochistic, must­see­everything writers whose skin is usually paler than Dracula's, or an cast including actors that we like on a personal taste basis.

The ponderous title sequence for the not­based­on­the­Paul­Simon song The Myth of Fingerprints, the story of a family reuniting for Thanksgiving Dinner, had me writhing in my chair trying to remember why the hell I was there. It's for the cast, listed above, and it's a good one. Once you get past those first five minutes you quickly discover that writer/director Bart Freundlich has done one thing very well. He has written a script with so much characterization that the actors have a field day. Problem is, as I've seen many times, is that he's carrying two jobs on his shoulders. Bart says he took three years to get the characters just right . . . a couple of extra months to provide a couple of deep stories would have been even nicer.

Hal, the father (Roy Scheider) gets a little too loose when he drinks and doesn't want guests at the Thanksgiving table -- family only. He's also anal about some kind of time game. Younger son Warren (Noah Wyle) hasn't been home in three years, but hinting at why blows most of what little story there is. Older daughter Mia (Julianne Moore) is a right nasty art gallery owning bitch who lugs her soon to be ignored boyfriend along. There's another son and daughter (and 'cuz she does almost nothing, Laurel Holloman comes off as the sexiest of the lot) and a patient mom (Blythe Danner) and everything is in place for something very interesting to happen. But it rarely does.

For all the good performances there is very little story to keep everything interesting. About the only thing that keeps this family together is a fondness for sex, which leads to some very entertaining gags. Take that away and all you have are character studies. The Myth of Fingerprints is one of those annoying films in which its creator has decided to leave huge questions open for the audience to talk about as they shuffle on out the door. You have to ask questions because there hasn't been enough story put on the plate to satisfy.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for The Myth of Fingerprints, he would have paid . . .


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