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FOREVER MINE(director/writer: Paul Schrader; cinematographer: John Bailey; editor: Kristina Boden; cast: Joseph Fiennes (Alan Ripley / Manuel Esquema), Ray Liotta (Mark Brice), Gretchen Mol (Ella Brice), Vincent Laresca (Javier), Myk Watford (Rick Martino); Runtime: 115; J & M Entertainment / Moonstar Entertainment; 1999)
“This one layed an egg with the whiny and pleading Joseph Fiennes character reduced to saying mostly corny love lines to the boring Gretchen Mol character.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A ‘So What’ film from Paul Schrader (Affliction), about a cabana boy’s rise into the underworld of big-time financiers. Adjectives such as vacuous and pretentious fit this film to a tee. It was unable to get theater bookings, even with the star-studded cast and Paul Schrader’s prestigious name listed as the screenwriter and director. It was finally shown on the “Starz” cable TV channel, as the company that owned the rights to the film went bankrupt and sold the film in a package deal to the cable station.

“Forever Mine” is a noir mystery that turns into a slow, uninvolving noir love story about revenge. The insipid acting by the three leads, who are involved in a love triangle, failed to give life to their characters. There was also an unsuccessful attempt to compare their melodramatics with the literature of Madame Bovary (using it as the book the Gretchen Mol character liked to read to seniors as part of her charity work). The script was pale, leading nowhere but down a dark path of murky noir morality. By the time we get to the payoff scene, the film seemed meaningless. It was more comical than exciting to see the duel for the girl being fought between an asshole and a prick, which is how the weaselly politician (Ray Liotta) described the two of them…mistakenly thinking of himself as only being a prick. This scene was supposed to show the different reactions the two opposites had to their life situations–one motivated by hate and the other by love. The only problem was, that the story never felt right and it never convincingly showed how a woman can live 14 years with a husband she subliminally hates and can still remain with him until her former lover unexpectedly returns from the dead.

The movie is a mess…with sappy dialogue fit for Erich Segal’s “Love Story.” This one layed an egg with the whiny and pleading Joseph Fiennes character reduced to saying mostly corny love lines to the boring Gretchen Mol character.

The film opens on a plane headed for New York in 1987 and aboard first-class are an obnoxious, tough-guy Hispanic, Javier (Vincent Laresca), and a seemingly sensitive but puzzling man in deep thought, whose side of the face is badly scarred from reconstructive surgery, Manuel Esquema (Joseph Fiennes). Manuel has flashbacks to 14 years earlier, when he was only 23, and the story unfolds of how he and Javier were cabana boys in a posh beachfront hotel in Miami Beach. He was also taking classes at the university and having succumbed once to doing a drug deal with Javier and spending time in prison, decides to turn a deaf ear to Javier’s urgings that they go partners in some big drug deals.

When the girl of Manuel’s dreams, an attractive, busty blonde, Ella Brice (Mol), comes out of the water in a sexy white bathing suit and wiggles her hips, Alan Ripley, the real name for Manuel Esquema, falls in love and pursues her despite her protestations. Alan is not put off by her being married and a pious Catholic, and with him in the lowly position of cabana boy. Alan gets his chance to be with her when her aspiring politically minded businessman husband Mark (Ray Liotta), goes on an overnight business trip. Alan takes her to bed in a cheap Miami hotel but when he asks her to run away with him, she refuses and returns with her husband to their affluent home in Westchester County, New York.

Warning: spoilers to follow.

The lovesick puppy, Alan, quits his hotel job and follows her to New York, getting a low-level job in a bank. Ella meets Alan in the dinghy hotel he is staying at and the young woman who married 8 months ago her much older husband for money, seems guilt-ridden about what to do. When Ella confesses to her husband Mark about what happened he arranges, unknown to her, for Alan to be arrested on trumped-up charges of possession of drugs and harassment. But Alan is forced to escape from the transporting prison bus and is led to a construction site, where Mark shoots the side of his face off and the other two escapees throw him into a concrete ditch where they were supposed to bury him but evidently didn’t in their rush to escape. Somehow Alan escapes and returns to see Javier in Miami and thereby goes into the drug trade with him, eventually becoming a big-time operator and developing international connections as an influence peddler and money lender.

The film now picks up with Manuel and Javier meeting Mark, who is now a former councilman about to be indicted for fraud and is set to face a long Federal prison sentence. They were called in to make an advantageous deal with the government for him, whereas Mark spends only a minimum amount of jail time in one of those ‘country club’ Federal prisons. Mark doesn’t recognize him as he speaks like a Latino, neither does his wife. But when they get together again, he reveals who he is and the romantic sparks start over and the film moves to its suspenseful climax.

The viewer is left wondering what kind of revenge will Fiennes exact, and how will Gretchen Mol react to his disfigurement and realization that he isn’t dead. It is a film that believes love can be pure, that it can overcome all sorts of corruption in the world. It is a film that believes certain people are made for each other and will overcome any obstacle to be together. That idea might have sounded good on paper but when shot on film, the steamy love story turns out to be dull mainly because Fiennes and Mol didn’t seem to connect. There was hardly any electricity between the two, even when in each other’s arms. Ray Liotta’s corrupt world of politics and business, seemed too generalized a characterization to matter. Schrader seemed to be trying to make some obscure political point by comparing the Watergate year of 1973 with the even more corrupt Reagan Contra involvement in 1987. Those are the dates when the film’s story begins and ends. Unfortunately, the film was preoccupied with Fiennes’ dreaming about love and begging Mol to be with him, as everything else seemed to be an afterthought. Interestingly when Ripley becomes financially successful, even though disfigured, she is willing to run away with him and desert her failed husband…something she couldn’t do when he was only an ambitious cabana boy and her husband was sitting on top of the world.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”