Keith Gordon’s ‘Waking the Dead’ (2000)

06Dec05

I kind of liked the premise of this film — a young man’s idealism of the ’70s comes back to haunt him during the ’80s in the form of hallucinations of a dead lover — but I found Keith Gordon’s execution lacking.

The film’s offenses:

  1. Underdeveloped romance. The connection between Fielding and Sarah is central to the plot. Without a strong connection, Fielding’s questioning of his actions and his sanity would seem contrived, which unfortunately is the case. I never buy a love at first fuck — Er, I mean sight kind of romance and the script did not give much evidence of what drew these very different people together besides, perhaps, a mutual appreciation of the other’s physical appearance. (Though I have to say that Jennifer Connelly was not looking her best in this movie. I usually find her attractive, but she looked downright plain at times.) The attraction was even more difficult to believe because of….
  2. Lack of chemistry. Billy Crudup and Connelly generated about as much heat as a block of ice. Seemingly to compensate for the lack of sexual tension, director Keith Gordon included a lot of sex and a lot of nudity in the film. Well, “nudity.” Though, of course, Jennifer Connelly’s breasts made an appearance. (They really should get an agent so that they can have their own deserved credit.) Anyway, the sex and the nudity — they ain’t workin’. That montage with Sarah saying in a totally not Louisvillian accent, “And then you were inside me” while she masturbates wearing Fielding’s t-shirt — it ain’t workin’ either.
  3. Book-y dialogue. A novel by Scott Spencer is the source material for the screenplay, and sometimes the awkwardness of the dialogue betrays that fact. These bits probably read fine but falter coming from actors’ mouths. My favorite example: “I am in this fucking room alone. And I’m choking on the collective sense of superiority.”

The film’s assets:

  1. Billy Crudup. I think that he makes the most of a badly drawn character. Even though the screenplay seemed to try to alienate me at times, he kept me involved, interested, and questioning Fielding’s sanity.

While I cannot give this film a strong recommendation, I did enjoy a majority of the running length. I found the scene between Sarah and Fielding in his office touching and I was satisfied with the ending. Though I would have chopped off that last scene — too sappy for my taste.

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