The Joanne Vannicola Website

Arcand's 'Love' is deadbeat drama

Kenneth Turan; 07-21-1995

English has not been good to Denys Arcand. Working in his native French, Arcand became one of Canada's most accomplished directors. His works include the intelligent and witty "The Decline of the American Empire" and "Jesus of Montreal."

Now comes the runt of the litter, "Love and Human Remains." It is Arcand's first film in English and is based on a play by Brad Fraser, who also wrote the screenplay. It is yet another "love in the age of AIDS and anxiety" sagas, with the camera following seven loosely connected characters as they search for relationships in the most tedious places. It's not so much that we've seen all this before - though we have - it's that the protagonists are maddeningly dreary.

The story pivots around two roommates, David (Thomas Gibson) and Candy (Ruth Marshall), who were lovers before David realized he was gay.

As if this weren't troublesome enough for Candy, she is dissatisfied with her job as an underpaid book reviewer and is having trouble sorting out her social life. Should she get involved with that nice bartender (Rick Roberts) who keeps mooning over her or try something different with the persistent lesbian (Joanne Vannicola) she's met at the gym?

David is by far the more prominent and off-putting of these characters, a former actor who says he became a waiter because "it's more artistically satisfying." A bored, sarcastic club-hopper, David may be unpleasantly smug and self-centered, but that doesn't stop everyone else from finding him fascinating. That group of admirers includes a 17-year-old busboy (Matthew Ferguson) who has a crush on him, a bemused dominatrix with a psychic streak (Mia Kirshner) and a childhood friend (Cameron Bancroft) whose most noticeable characteristic is that he might be the only person in town who's even more unpleasant than David.

Adding a certain undefined quality to the mix is a serial killer who is stalking the unnamed city where these people live, and the film offers periodic chances to watch the evil-doer at work. That' s about as edifying as it sounds. Few things are as enervating as a movie that thinks it's hip but isn't. Filled with deluded emotional deadbeats, "Love and Human Remains" offers no reason why anyone should want to chart the progress of its characters' lives. As for Arcand, he has done better than this before and surely will again.

Minneapolis Star Tribune, 07-21-1995, pp 06E.

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