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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio • Page 86
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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio • Page 86

Cincinnati, Ohio
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FILM The Cincinnati Enquirer Friday, October 6, 1995 21 lJ Li Ij v. I CRITIC'S PICKS A 'Quilt' soaked with emotion Film weaves women's tales of love, marriage and betrayal BY MARGARET A. McGURK The Cincinnati Enquirer How to Make an American Quilt is an absorbing, well-crafted tale about a young woman who finds direction in the histories of her hometown elders. Winona Ryder plays Finn, a 26-year-old graduate student who cannot decide what to do about a marriage proposal she has accepted from her sweetheart, Sam (Dermot Mulroney). She decamps for the summer to work on a thesis in her grandmother's home, where a circle of women are making her wedding quilt.

Over time, she hears their stories of romance, marriage, disappointment, betrayal and love, and weighs them against her own fears and hopes about casting her lot with one man. The women are fascinating, especially Finn's grandmother Hy MOVIE REVIEW How to Make an American Quilt (PG-13; one scene of marijuana use, sensuality, some nudity) Winona Ryder, Ellen Burstyn, Anne Bancroft, Maya Angelou, Alfre Woodard, Lois Smith, Jean Simmons, Kate Nelligan, Rip Torn, Dermot Mulroney, Mykelti Williamson. 109 minutes. At National (Ellen Burstyn), and great-aunt Glad (Anne Bancroft), who sip whiskey and smoke marijuana while they reminisce, argue, laugh and badger Finn. CTobacco is the real drug of choice; this movie is packed with gratuitous smoking.) TOP ART FILM: To Die For () Director Gus Van Sant built his reputation with edgy, funny portraits of on-the-fringe people.

In this scathing black comedy, he catapults right over the top. Nicole Kidman has been wowing viewers at film festivals with her turbo-charged performance; now the whole country gets to see why. 106 minutes. At National Amusements. FOR KIDS: Babe () One of the best of the summer comedies for families won't last much longer on the big screen.

Special effects and clever writing make grown-ups giggle along with the kids. 92 minutes. At National Amusements and Holiday Drive-In. FOR TEEN-AGERS: How to Make An American Quilt () Boys may resist this movie, but middle-to-older teen girls will appreciate the funny, sad, sensual adventures recounted by the sewing circle around Winona Ryder. 109 minutes.

At National Amusements. HOW THEY RATE Excellent Good Fair Poor Fine performances also come from Maya Angelou as Anna, the iron- willed quilt designer, Kate Nelligan, the relative newcomer, and Lois Smith, a woman all but dead with bitterness. Director Jocelyn Moore (Proof) keeps the emotion-soaked content from turning soggy by steering her talented cast away from cornball sentiment And she achieves a sturdy look, even in the flashback scenes, that gives weight and substance to the memd-ries we see enacted. The script takes many liberties with Whitney Otto's novel of the same name, most notably by stripping away me larger context Otto gave me women's lives. The book encompassed political and social reality, the movie sticks to the private issue of love.

This is a good movie on its own terms; with a little more guts it might have been great Finn (Winona Ryder) Is surrounded by some of the quilttng-circle women who share their lives with her. Left to riQht: Gladys Joe (Anne Bancroft), Hy (Ellen Burstyn), Marianna (Alfre Woodard) and Constance (Kate Nelligan). delivers a dead hit I 'To Die For' BY MARGARET A. McGURK The Cincinnati Enquirer The humor in director Gus Van Sanf To Die For is wicked. The acting is superb.

And the timing is downright unnerving. Created long before the recent 0 J. Simpson verdict To Die For rings an eerie chorus of bells on murder, notoriety, ambition, slandered victims and, most of all, the distortions of the video camera. This movie offers up a biting commentary on the lure of television, skewering the fragmented, scandal-driven industry of the "90s in the same way Network trashed the monoliths of the 70s. Buck Henry's razor sharp script based on a novel by Joyce Maynard, follows Suzanne Maretto (Nicole Kidman), a young woman ravenous for fame, on a death-march through a small New England town, where she browbeats a small cable station into giving her a shot as a weather-caster.

A tiny sip of renown whets her lust for the big time, and suddenly her clueless paisan of a husband (Matt Dillon), who wants to have kids and enlist Suzanne in the family business, becomes a burden. So she blithely recruits three teen-aged losers to get rid of him. Kidman is stunning as the blond media junkie with few brains and no conscience. She recounts her tale to an unmanned video camera with brilliant self-absorption, a spectacle both hilarious and chilling. Van Sant alternates her testimony with that of Jimmy, the pathetic teen she seduces to pull the trigger.

Joaquin Phoenix (brother of the late River Phoenix) is amazing as Jimmy. His addled low-life is so hypnotic and genuine, reminiscent of Crispin Glover in River's Edge, that he barely seems to be acting. llleana Douglas, as Suzanne's embittered sister-in-law, also turns in a wonderful performance delivered mostly in the form of an interview. Her character makes a final gesture of contempt in a deliriously vindictive and silent scene behind the final credits that is not to be missed. Aside from outstanding performances, the movie is smartly paced and welWesigned Most of al it delivers fascinating characters and provocative ideas with skill and grace.

MOVIE REVIEW To Die For (R; language, violence) Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix, llleana Douglas. 106 mfyutes. At National.

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