leave a comment --Ken Fox
That writer-director Brian Skeet's unfocused ensemble piece works at all has everything to do with a first-rate performance from surprise Brooke Shields. A summer weekend spent at the lakeside home of Marian (Deborah Kara Unger) and her husband John
(Jared Harris) reopens the barely healed wounds left by the recent death of John's half-brother, Tony (D.B. Sweeney, seen in flashbacks). Tony, a seductive free-spirit who once stole Marian's heart, was also the lover of Lyle (David Conrad), a pretentious young art critic who's made a name for
himself by once again declaring "Art is dead." Unlike Marian, who still clings to her memories of Tony, Lyle has moved on and is bringing his new boyfriend, a young New York artist named Robert (James Duval, who bravely takes on the Meg Tilly role in this BIG CHILL scenario), up for the weekend.
Marian has also extended a dinner invitation to her larger-than-life neighbor Laura Ponti (Gena Rowlands), the widow of a celebrated Italian architect. The soiree is a disaster: Marian makes no effort to hide the fact that she resents Robert, and just when things are headed downhill, Laura's
embittered daughter Nina (Shields), a B-movie actress who never misses an opportunity to torment her mother, arrives to hit on John. In a film where the relationships between characters are everything, Skeet is irritatingly cagey when it comes to details. We never know what killed Tony (we're led
to assume his death was AIDS-related, as if gay men die of nothing else), nor is it made entirely clear just how Marian and Lyle are related (we assume they're queasily close siblings). And why does Marian, who's American, speak with an on-again, off-again British accent? We never thought we'd say
this, but thank God for Brooke Shields: Spitting spite with every remark she hurls at her long-suffering mother, she's a revelation.