[Screen It]


(1997) (Noah Wyle, Julianne Moore) (R)

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

Drama: A family gets together for the first time in three years over a blustery Thanksgiving weekend.
A New England reunion over a cold Thanksgiving weekend brings a family together for the first time in three years. The parents, Lena (BLYTHE DANNER) and Hal (ROY SCHEIDER) have differing emotions about the get-together. She's happy to have everyone home while Hal gripes about the whole event, especially concerning son Warren (NOAH WYLE) who abruptly left years ago after his relationship with Daphne (ARIJA BAREIKIS), the love of his life, ended. Also present is the youngest daughter, Leigh (LAUREL HOLLOMAN), who instantly starts flirting with Elliot (BRIAN KERWIN), the psychiatrist husband of her bitter and angry sister, Mia (JULIANNE MOORE). Finally, son Jake (MICHAEL VARTAN) and his friendly, outgoing girlfriend Margaret (HOPE DAVIS) arrive. Family tensions and bickering soon erupt and the kids begin to realize that their father is becoming senile. Mia takes up an odd relationship with Cezanne (JAMES LeGROS), a former kindergarten classmate of hers, while Warren reestablishes his with Daphne. As the weekend progresses, the family does what it can to stay together.
Unless someone in the cast draws them to it, it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film.
For sexuality and language.
Most of the characters are okay, with the following exceptions:
  • JULIANNE MOORE plays a meanspirited woman who doesn't get along with anyone and has a bad attitude toward everyone and life in general.
  • ROY SCHEIDER plays the father who appears to be aloof and to dislike his kids, but some of that can be attributed to the early stages of senility.
  • MICHAEL VARTAN and HOPE DAVIS play two young unmarried lovers who often have sex (including outdoors), that some may not see as good role model material.


    OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
    This is the second drama of the week dealing with familial problems that come to a head over a wintery Thanksgiving weekend (the other being "The Ice Storm."). Whereas the characters in that film had big problems and were having affairs and the kids were experimenting with all kinds of stuff, those in this film deal with more mundane and commonplace problems most of us have experienced ourselves. While it still falls under our category of "Why Do You Want to Watch Such Films?" at least there's enough humor and the problems aren't so terribly bad so as to make this film unbearable to watch.

    Writer/director Bart Freundlich makes his motion picture debut with this feature and does a decent job in creating some of the characters and also filming some nice scenes and moments. He certainly has a great cast with which to work. Roy Scheider delivers a great performance as the troubled patriarch. In one scene his wife comments on how good the kids look. He responds, "Hmm, there are more of them than I remember." His many subtle expressions are not only similarly quite funny, but they also show a great deal more about him than we're told. I've always liked him as an actor and feel that he's one of the more underused talents in the industry today. Let's hope we see him in a few more films. Julianne Moore is terrific as always, despite the fact that we, and no one else in the movie likes the character she portrays. The rest of the cast perform admirably as well, despite the fact that some of them are more sketch-like than properly three-dimensional. Part of that's probably attributed to the movie's length. The film is rather short (90 minutes) for this genre and with the large cast we never really feel like we get to know the characters as well as we should have.

    A film dealing with personal and familial relationships needs to have some time to build up the characters and their conflicting personalities, and this film does that for a while. It does, however, abruptly end, seeming as if Freundlich or his editors forgot to tack on the resolution-filled ending. Some will argue, I suppose that the film does that with some of the characters leaving the home, but it just feels like there's no closure -- something nearly akin to a weekly episodic TV show where the story will resume in seven days. The film also spends too much time with Mia and her former kindergarten classmate who somehow and inexplicably recognizes her after all of the intervening years. One expects something to come from their long scenes together, and perhaps there's some symbolism in the plot of the book they discuss, but it's rather veiled and uninspired. Basically a story about growing up, getting older, and wanting things to be the way they were in the past, the film starts out promising, but ends with the characters, and our anticipation of the outcome, being shortchanged. This is a decent rookie start for Freundlich, but despite the good performances, you'll feel that you're left out there hanging, which isn't good for a movie. Unless they're planning for a sequel -- and this film won't get one. We give "The Myth of Fingerprints" a 4 out of 10.

    Profanity, several sexual encounters, and family problems highlight this film's material. Ten "f" words are spoken, along with an assortment of others. Several sexual encounters occur, some with moderate amounts of movement and sexual sounds, but we don't ever see any nudity. The family has their share of relationship problems within their family, and several characters have bad attitudes. A minor character briefly smokes a joint, others smoke cigarettes and the family drinks wine in several scenes. While it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film, we suggest that you read through the material should you or someone in your family wish to see it.

  • The family drinks wine with dinner in several scenes, and Leigh drinks a beer during one of those.
  • One of Warren's friends smokes a joint.
  • Leigh and Margaret drink beer.
  • Margaret appears to be a little drunk in one scene, and Hal has a glass of wine. He then kisses her, which possibly could be attributed to the wine.
  • Mia asks Elliot if he's drunk and Hal chimes in, "That's a good idea. Let's go into the next room and get drunk." We then see most of the family drinking after dinner.
  • None.
  • Hal doesn't appear to be happy that his family and their significant others have returned for Thanksgiving. He seems aloof and distant, but we later learn that he's starting to go senile, so that explains some of his behavior.
  • Still, he inappropriately kisses Margaret, and we also learn that he made advances toward Daphne years ago.
  • Mia generally has a bad attitude and is bitter toward life. She says, "Aren't your family the first people you're supposed to be hostile to?" She also refers to her town as "God forsaken" and is mean to a clerk in a bookstore as well as her husband.
  • Leigh flirts with Elliot despite the fact that he's married to her sister.
  • None.
  • Rifle: Carried by Hal in a few scenes and used once to shoot into a purchased turkey to make it look like he shot it in the wild.
  • Phrases: "Bitch" (said by Leigh and Margaret when describing Mia), "Shut up," and "Sucks."
  • Leigh listens in on Warren's phone conversation.
  • Leigh likes to jump out and scare people when they enter a room.
  • In old home movies, we see the kids acting like they're breaking eggs over one boy's head, and then see Hal sneak up and playfully break two real eggs over this boy's head.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 10 "f" words (1 used sexually), 4 "s" words, 4 hells, 1 ass, and 16 uses of "Jesus," 4 uses each of "Jesus Christ," "Oh God," and "God," 2 uses of "My God" and 1 use each of "God forsaken" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • Mia and Elliot have sex on a train in full view of anyone looking through the window, which includes Leigh. She, and we, see movement and we hear some sounds, but don't see any nudity.
  • Jake and Margaret have sex in the woods on their way home. We see movement and hear sounds, but again no nudity is seen.
  • Margaret tells Lena that she's used to sleeping in the same bed with Jake and asks permission if they can do so. Lena complies, saying, "I like her" (about her honesty).
  • Leigh and Margaret joke about Mia's train encounter (above) and mentions it was a good thing they (Elliot and Mia) weren't driving or Mia would have been "spread eagle" on the dashboard.
  • Jake and Margaret have sex again with movement and sounds (but no nudity). Others hear them, their squeaky bed and the rhythmic thumping of their bedposts. Mia then crawls on top of Elliot (presumably to have sex) and Lena tells Hal that they have to be quiet (and they presumably have sex). We then hear rhythmic thumping sounds and some moaning for several minutes during this sequence.
  • The next morning Lena mentions that no matter how old your kids get, they still can't accept that fact their parents have sex.
  • Warrens smokes a few times during the movie, and we see Hal smoke a cigar and cigarette while Jake smokes in one scene.
  • The family members all don't get along with each other, and there's some arguing between them.
  • Hal isn't happy that Warren's arrived a day early, nor with any or all of the family members being there for Thanksgiving.
  • Mia and Elliot don't get along and obviously don't have a happy marriage.
  • The family must deal with the subtle signs that Hal is starting to go senile.
  • Family problems.
  • Parents who are aging, and the onset of senility.
  • Warren pushes his father to the floor after he won't stop dancing with Daphne.

  • Reviewed October 15, 1997

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