Still Breathing

1998, Movie, PG-13, 109 mins

Review

STILL BREATHING
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This often charming romantic comedy boasts a winning cast and an imaginative premise, but is very nearly derailed by a shocking lapse in taste. Like his father and his father's father before him, San Antonio street performer Fletcher McBracken (Brendan Fraser) has a fleeting vision of the woman with whom he's destined to spend the rest of his life, a beautiful brunette who apparently lives in Formosa. That's all he knows, so he books a flight to Formosa -- now Taiwan -- determined to find her. But during a stopover in L.A., the old-fashioned romantic wanders into the chicly rundown Formosa Lounge, and there she sits: thoroughly modern con artist Roz Willoughby (Joanna Going), whom love has knocked around enough that the notion of true love with the perfect man seems to her a cruel fairy tale. Mistaking the lovestruck Fletcher for her latest mark, Roz allows him to fly her back to Texas where he tries to melt a heart that's been packed away in ice. It's really a delightful setup, and writer-director James F. Robinson is smart to spice up what might otherwise be a rather conventional sentimental romance with bits of magic realism. Fraser oozes natural puppy-dog charm -- so much of it that you're occasionally afraid he might accidentally slobber -- and Going makes for a suitably hard-boiled cookie adept at playing the shallow rich for all they're worth. And with a radiant Celeste Holm on hand as Fletcher's tuba-blowing grandmother, it's a pretty classy production, which makes the scene in which dying of AIDS is played for laughs all the more regrettable. (In order to avoid having to sleep with the dupes once she's fleeced them, Roz leads them to believe she's HIV-positive. Ha ha ha.) Note to screenwriters: AIDS is the killer comedy-killer. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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