May 20, 2007

Reviews of Now & Forever

A Love That Stands the Tests of Time and Cree WisdomIn "Now & Forever," a mystical love story directed by Bob Clark ("Porky's," "A Christmas Story"), John (Adam Beach), a young Cree Indian from a small town in Saskatchewan, has been in love with Angela (Mia Kirshner) since the two were children. But after her father, a Vietnam veteran, commits suicide, the troubled and restless Angela takes up instead with T. J. (Gabriel Olds), a callow youth who brags about their sex life to his friends.

When John rescues Angela from an assault at the hands of T. J.'s marauding gang, she flees their hometown in shame, determined to make her way as an actress. She leaves the heartbroken John with the gift of a leather-bound journal, in which he records thoughts like "I was wrenched out of her arms by the holocaust of my reality."

John's gift for solemn, unintentionally funny pronouncements may be inherited from his father, Ghost Fox (Gordon Tootoosis), the kind of movie Indian who uses contractions sparsely as he reassures his son that "this soil is sacred, full of stirring memories" and that "all will unfold as it should." For Angela and John this unfolding will involve fulfilling a magical bond fated to unite them forever. When Angela falls ill with a rare disease, John mysteriously reappears in her life to realize the prophecy.

Ms. Kirshner, who plays a similarly frail and damaged character on Showtime's "L Word," is a saucer-eyed beauty with an appealing screen presence, but she's not given much to do here except suffer prettily. Theresa Russell is terrific as Angela's slatternly but loving mother, but her character disappears abruptly midway through the movie. As T. J., Mr. Olds is so calculatingly evil, he may as well be twisting the ends of a waxed mustache, while the Indian characters are stiff and noble enough to be carved in wood and parked outside a tobacco shop.
'Now & Forever'Now & Forever's heart is in the right place, but its mouth is not; this earnest Canadian production from 2002 boasts one of the single most odious voice-over narrations in recent memory. It is read by Adam Beach, whose apathetic delivery suggests that he understood the innate crappiness of lines like "At that moment, my heart discovered new words for emptiness that my mind could never grasp." Beach's John waxes philosophomoric for Angela (Mia Kirshner), who stands up to one of his childhood bullies, endearing herself to him for all eternity ("I knew that joy and pain would now forever be my constant companions!"). In the film's final third, Angela and John reunite after a lengthy separation, and the stars, unencumbered by pretentious voice-over, develop a warm chemistry. But the screenplay keeps getting in their way.Now & ForeverNow & Forever was directed by Bob Clark, who remains best known for his '80s hits Porky's and A Christmas Story. In recent years, Clark has been making a living by helming family TV-movies and such embarrassing features as Baby Geniuses and its sequel Superbabies. It's understandable that he'd like to see Now & Forever reach a wider audience; after all, this is the first adult story he's been able to tackle in ages. Clark's direction is professional enough, as are the lead performances, but the movie is doomed from the get-go by Bill Boyle's mawkish, cliché-ridden screenplay. You can see every plot development coming a mile away and the final "twist" almost pushes the film into camp. And if the writer notices anything slightly distasteful about the central romance--a Native American man who is so devoted to serving this oblivious white woman that he thinks of nothing else--he doesn't acknowledge it. In fact, Boyle isn't particularly interested in John and his father as people; they are primarily on hand to spout all the trite spiritual platitudes about eternal love that are prerequisites for this kind of weepy melodrama. "I'm going to do dying well...there is no way that I'm going to do some cheesy movie-of-the-week," Angela says as her sickness worsens. Sorry, sweetheart--it's too late for that.Comment:  These reviews pretty much nailed the problems with this film. John and his father qualify as your standard mystical Indians, with lots of New Age-y talk about spirits and souls. Rob's rating: 6.0 of 10.

P.S. I saw Clark's A Christmas Story last year. A holiday classic? I don't think so.

If you think A Christmas Story is a great movie, you may like Now & Forever. I suspect the inverse is also true.

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