[Screen It]


(1997) (Nick Nolte, Julie Christie) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate None Heavy None None
Mild None Minor None Heavy
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Heavy Moderate Heavy Mild Mild

Drama: Two couples' troubled marriages overlap as affairs develop between the involved spouses.
Jeffrey Byron (JONNY LEE MILLER) is a successful young executive who's more passionate about his job than his wife, Marianne (LARA FLYNN BOYLE). She desperately wants children, but Jeffrey has no interest in that, which only puts a greater strain on their marriage. Nonetheless, she wants to convert one of their rooms into a baby's room, and hires a local contractor, Lucky Mann (NICK NOLTE), for the job. Married to former actress Phyllis Mann (JULIE CHRISTIE) for twenty-four years, the two moved to Montreal years ago in search of their runaway daughter. Lucky has a reputation for being a ladies man, and Marianne sees that he could father a child for her and thus seduces him. Both Phyllis and Jeffrey get jealous over their respective spouses' absences, and meet while spying upon them. They then begin an unconsummated affair and everything comes to a full boil when the two couples meet.
Unless they're fans of someone in the cast, it's highly unlikely.
For sexuality and some language.
Considering the adulterous behavior and bad attitudes, it's doubtful many parents would consider any of the characters to be good role models.


OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
You've probably heard the story that there are no new ideas in Hollywood and that any new film is simply a variation on one of only a handful of the original stories. Whether that's true is debatable, but if a new film is done in a unique way, or given a new spin, it will often feel fresh and audiences will forget that, in essence, they've seen the story many times before. If not, the movie feels like a tired retread of so many movies that came before it. Unfortunately, "Afterglow" falls into the latter category. How many times have we seen films were the partners of spouses involved in an affair meet, and then have an affair of their own? While this film tries to throw in a few variations -- an over-the-hill "B" movie actress who laments her lost career and her runaway daughter -- they're not enough to bring new life to this latest try in the affair genre.

The performers involved certainly give it some decent tries, and film does offer a decent cast. Nick Nolte, who we've always enjoyed, delivers what's probably his best subdued performance since his Oscar nominated role in "The Prince of Tides" (1991). Like that film, here he plays against what's become his normal, gruff-voiced stereotype character popularized in films such as "48 Hours." Possessing a wide and varied resume of films, we hope this role will overshadow some of his more disastrous movies such as "I Love Trouble" (with Julia Roberts).

Julie Christie makes her second rare appearance in a film within a year since last year's "Hamlet." Once a big star in Hollywood (and an Academy Award nominee for 1971's "McCabe & Mrs. Miller"), Christie had all but disappeared from major films, no doubt due to the lack of roles for older women. Like Nolte, we've always enjoyed Christie's performances and here she gives a sort of Faye Dunaway take on her aloof character. Unfortunately she's given lines such as "My soul needs an overhaul" and "The hard part is finding out too late it can't last" that probably looked great in the script but sound artificial coming from her mouth. Still, it's good to see her on the big screen again and hopefully she'll be given better roles after this film.

Lara Flynn Boyle and Jonny Lee Miller finish out the adulterous foursome and adequately perform their roles. Boyle finally gets a bigger role after a career of supporting and smaller bit parts. Miller, however, doesn't get to do much other than play the creep (which he does quite well) -- and is nearly unrecognizable from his role in last year's "Trainspotting."

Director Alan Rudolph (1994's "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" and 1991's "Mortal Thoughts" with Demi Moore), goes back to the type of film he's more comfortable with, and that's showcasing troubled people. Like fellow director Mike Figgis ("Leaving Las Vegas" and "One Night Stand"), however, he doesn't create a story that' s fun to watch. I'll freely admit that I'd rather see a fun or happy story any day over a soap opera-ish film dealing with troubled people. Who needs or wants to see films about that? It's readily available in real life and trivialized in the many daily soap operas, so if it's going to be done on the big screen, I want to see something that sparks my interest.

While the performers involved give it their best, they can't overcome Rudolph's less than inspired direction and the lackluster screenplay (that he also wrote). The coincidence factor -- where things too easily happen in the story -- is extremely high and only hurts the plot. Jeffrey and Phyllis just happen to sit next to each other in a bar and lo' and behold they later find out that they're the significant others! (What are the odds of that happening?) And Marianne just happens to hire Lucky, an adulterous plumber who can fix her own "plumbing" dilemma. (Quite convenient!). Some clever writing (creating situations that would develop from the characters being more proactive) could have gotten around those "problems" and made everything seem quite logical. Yet Rudolph doesn't see to care that they're so preposterously remote that they derail any momentum he was building.

The only moments that uniquely stand out involve a few lines playing off the main character's name (Oh what a "lucky man" you are, etc...) and some odd moments where Rudolph speeds up the film and shows characters zipping around the screen. Although such moments are way out of place and the motivation behind them is unclear at best (other than to get through a slow scene rather quickly), at least they add a little pizzazz to an otherwise tired, worn out, and old as the hills plot. If it weren't for the performances, this would be an awful film, but as it stands, it's simply repetitive and mediocre. We give "Afterglow" a 3.5 out of 10.

Unless they're fans of someone in the cast, it's unlikely that even the oldest of teens will want to see this film. In any case, here's a quick summary of the content. Some sexual innuendo, some groping and other implied activity, and one encounter with some movement and a brief glimpse of bare breasts highlight that category. All of the main characters have bad attitudes in one way or another and all participate in affairs. At least 3 "f" and 5 "s" words are the worst of the profanity, and there's moderate amounts of drinking and smoking. If someone in your family wishes to see this film, we suggest that you look through the content first to make sure it's appropriate for them.

  • Jeffery and Phyllis drink quite a bit (liquor) throughout the film. Lucky has a few beers, while Marianne drinks a little as does a minor character.
  • None.
  • Jeffrey treats Marianne very poorly and doesn't pay attention to her needs.
  • We learn that Phyllis had an affair that produced a child and that she didn't tell Lucky for fifteen years.
  • All four main characters have both as they have or attempt to have affairs.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Balls" (testicles), "Screwing" and "Screw" (both used sexually), "Pissed off," and "Bastard."
  • We see Jeffrey stand on his balcony and balance himself on one foot.
  • Jeffrey acts like he's cutting his throat with a metal blade, and the proximity of it to his neck causes his assistant to get nervous.
  • None.
  • There's just a minor bit of such music that's heard in the movies that Phyllis watches on TV.
  • None.
  • At least 3 "f" words, 5 "s" words, 10 hells, 1 damn, 1 crap, 1 S.O.B., and 5 uses of "Oh my God," 4 uses each of "G-damn" and "Jesus," 3 uses of "Jesus Christ," 2 uses each of "God," "Oh Jesus," and "For Christ's sakes," and 1 use of "For God's sakes" as exclamations.
  • While Lucky's fixing her sink, an older woman opens her robe and shows her cleavage to him. He then makes some plumbing comments that can also be taken sexually: "I want you to turn me on" and "Okay, make it wet." Moments later he feels her clothed breasts and runs his hands over the rest of her body, but the scene ends there before anything else happens.
  • Marianne, dressed in a camisole, tries to seduce Jeffrey and tells him, "Let's make love," but nothing happens.
  • We see Marianne possibly masturbating, or in the early stages of doing so (due to the camera angle it's hard to tell), but she's interrupted by someone at the door.
  • Jeffrey learns that his assistant is gay when he comments that it's nice to finally "be out."
  • Marianne seduces Lucky who then feels her clothed breasts and butt and they passionately kiss. We then see them in her bathtub having sex (some movement) and we briefly see her bare breasts.
  • Jeffrey tells Phyllis that he believes his wife is probably involved in "oral copulation" as they speak.
  • Phyllis tries to seduce Lucky in their bed and runs her hand down into his underwear, but he tells her he's too tired.
  • Phyllis tells a story of being drunk in a closet with a friend who ended up impregnating her.
  • Jeffrey and Phyllis kiss on her bed, but nothing else happens.
  • Jeffrey and Marianne roll around in their living room, and while we don't see anything more than that, it's implied that they have sex.
  • Phyllis smokes throughout the movie, while Lucky smokes cigars in a few scenes.
  • Both marriages are in turmoil, with none of the parties involved being happy, especially since they're having, or trying to have, affairs.
  • Lucky and Phyllis moved to Montreal to search for their runaway daughter after receiving a letter from her stating that they were unfit to be parents.
  • Adultery.
  • Running away from home (what the Mann's daughter did at sixteen).
  • Jeffrey flings a picture in a fireplace and angrily knocks a lamp to the floor.
  • Phyllis hits Lucky several times until he finally pins her to their bed.
  • Jeffrey and Lucky fight in a bar, but their actions are limited mainly to some tussling as well as a few elbow hits to the gut. Later at Jeffrey and Marianne's, the two men fight again, but with the same limited violence.
  • Phyllis hits Lucky in the gut.

  • Reviewed December 1, 1997

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