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Starring Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, David Strathairn, Vanessa Martinez, Kris Kristofferson and Casey Siemaszko
Written and Directed by John Sayles

IN SHORT: Coulda been a better book. [Rated [R]]

Writer/Director John Sayles insists on fading to black at the end of every sequence in his new film Limbo. It would be very fitting if the intent were to write a novel for screen. The net result, though, is an unfocussed work in which too much attention is paid to unimportant characters. Too little time is devoted to developing some of the important story background necessary to really get pulled into what becomes a story of survival in the Alaskan wilderness, moreso than about a feud between a bankrupt fisherman and a lesbian couple, which takes up most of the first act. Cranky saw the end coming a mile away -- Sayles writes himself into the proverbial indie flick corner and does the final fade without delivering any sort of conclusive moment; one of those "you go off and have coffee and argue about it" kind of endings that, as I've written before, leaves me feeling ripped off.

Limbo starts off promisingly enough, with a wedding hosted by an aging yuppie who is looking to turn the great state of Alaska into the world's largest theme park. Lead singer of the hired party band, Donna de Angelo (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) meets the combo aide slash handyman for the lesbian couple catering the affair, Joe Gastineau (David Strathairn) who help she heists when she decides to walk out on her boyfriend, also in the band. Thus, the start of a slow to cook fortysomething romance. Joe, a former fisherman, has been off the sea since a boating accident took the lives of his two closest friends. Donna, who's been on the road for ages, has teenage daughter Noelle (Vanessa Martinez) to deal with. Noelle shows all the symptoms of a coming emotional self-destruction, but symptoms are all you get. Add to the cast an airplane pilot named Smilin' Jack (Kris Kristofferson), brother of one of the deceased friends, and Joe's half-brother Bobby (Casey Siemaszko) who has his own problems with drug smugglers.

So why does John Sayles indulge himself with the subplot about (self-referring) dykes and a fisherman? It helps provide some color to the Alaskan town, where the salmon packing plant is about to close and tour guides regale blue haired tourists with tales of the Gold Rush as they lug the old folks from bar to bar. Padding, even when as colorful as these tales of starvation and greed, is why God invented the editing block.

And, yeah, I've tipped to too much of the story. In character driven flicks, which is what Limbo is, story comes second to those who will watch good actors do their damnedest to make an average story better and more realistic. It may be that, in real life, real characters aren't bigger than life. This be the movies, folks, and in this movie real life isn't as big as the lovely Alaskan scenery.

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


Strictly for those of you who live in arthouses. You wanna see good actors in a meandering set of stories, wait to rent Limbo.

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