The Simian Line

Issues of love and fidelity are mainstays in smaller movies. Perhaps because smaller movies, because of budgeting or ambition, tend to be more personal, character driven affairs, and relationships focus nearly wholly on the characters. Therefore, each new film must try to add its own unique twist to well-trod stories of relationships. In The Simian Line, four couples have between Halloween and New Year's Eve to examine the status of their relationships. Are they truly good together? Should they break up? Will anybody care either way? Not really. As a joke at a Halloween party, Rick (Harry Connick Jr., My Dog Skip, The Iron Giant) invites local outcast Arnita (Tyne Daly, A Piece of Eden, Absence of the Good) to read their fortunes. Instead, Arnita predicts that one of the couples will not be together by the year's end. Vowing to prove how wrong Arnita is, the couples vow to celebrate New Year's Eve together.

Arnita's prediction affects each person differently. Most people ignore it, but director Linda Yellen (Northern Lights, End of Summer) uses it to examine each relationship with more detail. Rick lives with Katharine (Lynn Redgrave, The Next Best Thing, How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog), a much older woman. Katharine is insecure about her relationship with Jack, fearing that he will leave her for some other woman. Although she is happy, she cannot seem to overcome the age difference. Arnita's prediction causes paranoia for her, especially in the presence of Sandra (Cindy Crawford, 54, Fair Game). Sandra lives next door with husband Paul (Jamey Sheridan, The Amati Girls, Cradle Will Rock). Paul is focusing on his business, which is causing strain in his marriage. Sandra has similar artistic interest as Rick, so they begin spending time together. Billy (Dylan Bruno, The One, Where the Heart Is) and Marta (Monica Keena, Orange County, Crime and Punishment in Suburbia) rent a room upstairs from Katharine. They are young, brash, in love, and seemingly headed for self-destruction. Arnita's prediction for Marta quickly comes true, causing her to rethink her outlook on life and her relationship with Billy.

Yellen and co-writers Michael Leeds and Gisella Bernice (Parallel Lives, Chantilly Lace) are trying to produce a guessing game amongst the audience. Each relationship is undergoing strain, so they all could potentially break up. The last couple is Edward (William Hurt, A.I., Sunshine) and Mae (Samantha Mathis, American Psycho, Rules of Attraction). Edward is Katharine's grandfather, and a ghost. He haunts the house she lives in. Mae haunts Paul and Sandra's house, but they are making so much noise remodeling that she moved over for a while. The acting is all-around mediocre, with Hurt and Mathis affecting annoying accents. Crawford stands out only because she is as bad as she previously was. A weak script that only sometimes manages a little insight hampers everybody else.

The deepest characters are Katharine and Marta. Katharine, for all her success, is lonely. For something with many years of life experience, she is still surprisingly immature. She wants love, but is not willing to trust. Marta is in the opposite situation. The plot thrusts a huge responsibility onto her. She must grow up quickly, and decide between her carefree, wild life and a more stable one. The Simian Line never generates much interest because all the issues that Yellen deals with are old. Aside from Katharine and Marta, The story goes through the necessary ups and downs, and tries unconvincingly to throw in some elements of humor, including a particularly large miss with a social worker. Yellen provides little depth, reason to care for the character, or a fresh perspective on dating.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 16 minutes, Rated R for language and some sexuality.

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