L.A. Flaw

The direction of Michael Lehmann (Heathers, Meet the Applegates) is impersonal but agreeably sunny. Chaplin, the brooding youngest brother in Feast of July, is dull, but it isn't necessary to the film that he be interesting; he's as much a plot device as a female ingenue in a male-driven farce. Thurman plays the same amiable dolt she did in A Month by the Lake.

But Garofalo, with her sexy, bone-dry delivery and her wary eyes, completely dominates the picture. Except, maybe, for the photographer's soulful, petulant Great Dane, no one in the film comes close to engaging us like she does.

The Truth About Cats & Dogs suffers from the same basic glitch as most films that hinge on the homeliness of their heroines--Garofalo isn't homely, any more than Lili Taylor was in Dogfight. Some might even find Garofalo's looks preferable to those of the gaunt, small-mouthed Thurman.

It's a poignant insult that films which ask us to look past a woman's superficial attractiveness often don't have the nerve to show us a woman whom society might truly judge unattractive. It could be argued, of course, that given society's rigid standards for beauty, even a woman as uncommonly lovely as Garofalo--or Thurman, for that matter--might easily believe herself to be unattractive. That, somehow, is even more poignant.

In response to reactionary attempts to ratify censorship with regard to the American flag, inspired by the current show at Phoenix Art Museum, local cinemaven Fred Linch is hosting a three-film series about censorship at Arizona Historical Society Museum at Marley Center, 1300 North College in Tempe. It kicks off Wednesday, May 1, at 7 p.m., most interestingly with Salt of the Earth, director Herbert Biberman's 1953 exploration about a New Mexico miner's strike for which Biberman, screenwriter Michael Wilson, producer Paul Jarrico and star Will Geer were blacklisted. Following on May 8 is The Front, Martin Ritt's gripping, underrated 1976 tragicomedy starring Woody Allen, about McCarthyite outrages in '50s television, and on May 29, Francois Truffaut's 1967 film of Ray Bradbury's cautionary novel Fahrenheit 451. Worthwhile stuff. For more info, call 840-4421.--M. V. Moorhead

Mulholland Falls:
Directed by Lee Tamahori; with Nick Nolte, Chazz Palminteri, Melanie Griffith, John Malkovich, Andrew McCarthy, Jennifer Connelly, Chris Penn and Michael Madsen.

Rated

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