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THINGS YOU CAN’T TELL JUST BY LOOKING AT HER(director/writer: Rodrigo Garcia; cinematographer: Emmanuel Lubezki; editor: Amy E. Duddleston; cast: Glenn Close (Dr. Elaine Keener), Cameron Diaz (Carol), Matt Craven (Walter), Calista Flockhart (Christine), Holly Hunter (Rebecca), Gregory Hines (Robert), Kathy Baker (Rose), Valerina Golino (Lilly), Amy Brenneman (Kathy), Danny Woodburn (Albert), Noah Fleiss(Jay), Penny Allen (Nancy), Roma Maffia (Debbie), Elpidia Carrillo(Carmen); Runtime: 106; MGM; 2000)
“Garcia keeps these stories provocative and moving at a fast-pace.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Noted cinematographer Rodrigo Garcia (son of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez) makes his directorial debut with this interesting ensemble drama about contemporary life in southern California. There are 5 short vignettes where the characters seamlessly intermesh. There are many cogent small observations made. The film won a prize at Cannes last year, but still has not been released to theaters. I saw it on its Showtime TV debut.

The first vignette, entitled “This Is Dr. Keener,” is about a divorced, childless middle-aged doctor who is looking after her elderly mother and is disappointed that a workplace doctor she is pursuing, won’t return her phone calls. Dr. Keener (Glenn Close) is stunned by the accurate comments of a young tarot card reader, Christine (Calista Flockhart), who exposes her false pretenses at happiness and calls her the great pretender. Her negative behavior ruins her chances at love. The tarot seer holds out hope that someone new will come into her life, a much younger man.

“In Fantasies About Rebecca,” the vignette I liked the best, an attractive, self-confident 39-year-old bank manager Rebecca (Holly Hunter) learns that she is pregnant. When she tells this to her longtime, married boyfriend (Gregory Hines), it is tacitly agreed that she will not have the baby. While waiting for the abortion, she has a spontaneous fling with an office assistant, Walter (Matt Craven). After she has the abortion, performed by Dr. Keener, she breaks down in tears in the street, as her painful life hits home and she realizes that it is more than likely she will never have a child.

“In Someone for Rose” a divorced, middle-aged children’s book author (Kathy Baker) is surprised to find herself romantically interested in her new neighbor (Danny Woodburn), a very outspoken and articulate dwarf, who works as a hospital bookkeeper. Rose’s renewed sexual interest coincides with her learning that her teenage son (Fleiss) had a sexual encounter.

In the fourth vignette, “Good Night Lilly, Good Night Christine,” Calista Flockhart’s character reappears as the lover to the dying Lilly (Valerina Golino). The girls go over how they met and fell in love and how meaningful their romance was.

The final vignette, “Love Waits for Kathy,” concerns the relationship between Kathy, a sexually frustrated police detective and her blind and beautiful sister Carol (Cameron Diaz), who deals with her disability with self-confidence, humor and a great awareness of life. Carol notices by scent the man she is dating as she is waiting by the elevator of an office building and he notices her and walks by without saying hello, which tells her all that she needs to know about what kind of person he is. Kathy meets a colleague (Miguel Sandoval) on the job and decides to date him, while Carol deals with her own problems without self-pity.

Garcia keeps these stories provocative and moving at a fast-pace. This is a smart film that gets amazing characterizations from all the actresses, each giving a wonderfully nuanced performance.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”