'The Perfect Man,' 'The Deal' and 'Pure'

EntertainmentMoviesPetroleum IndustryCompanies and CorporationsDrama (genre)Fran DrescherHilary Duff

In "The Perfect Man," the moon exists "to remind us that each day has the potential for beauty." This according to Jean (Heather Locklear), a fancy-cake baker and single mother of two who would be better off remembering that each day has the potential for medication. Jean is a serial monogamist with a penchant for losers. Every time one dumps her, she picks up the family and moves. Spastic parenting calls for drastic measures, so when newly installed in Brooklyn (where everyone sounds exactly like Fran Drescher), Jean's daughter Holly (Hilary Duff) smells another bad egg in the person of Lenny the Styx-loving baker (Mike O'Malley) and decides to play e-Cyrano. Inventing a perfect man for Jean to fall for sight unseen, she models him on her friend's uncle, Ben (Chris Noth), the kind of sexy, warm restaurant owner who always has time for inquisitive 10th graders during the lunch rush. Holly gets so caught up writing Jean love e-mails in an effort to prevent her from marrying Lenny that she overlooks her own perfect boy, Adam (Ben Feldman), a cute artist who lets Holly commandeer his computer for her e-charade. Then she spends each wistful night confiding it all to her online diary. Sure, it all sounds like a stretch, but Jean is just crazy enough for it to work — the plan, that is, not the movie. The movie is a tortured marshmallow. It's too disingenuous for teens (at least the teens sitting behind me at the screening, who kept howling, "Where's the moooon?") and too mommy's-going-on-Match.com-again disturbing for younger viewers. Seriously, the perfect man would call social services.

"The Perfect Man": PG for some mildly suggestive content. It suggests that mom gets around. 1 hour, 40 minutes. In general release.

Unrefined mystery afflicts an oil crisisSet in the near future during an oil crisis, "The Deal" is timely and concludes on a bitter note of irony, but it could have used a rigorous rewrite. The film might have worked as a taut, topical corporate intrigue thriller; instead, for all its ambition, it'sjust a routine mystery, despite a solid performance by Christian Slater.

Slater's Tom Hanson is a dynamic but principled rising star at Wall Street investment bank Delaney & Strong. For three years the U.S. has been at war with the Confederation of Arab States, which has driven the price of gasoline up to $6 a gallon and wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy. Jared Tolson (Robert Loggia), chief executive officer at Condor Oil & Gas, approaches Tom to handle a deal for a $20-billion merger with a Russian oil company.

When Tom starts doing his homework, he places himself in great danger, but it actually doesn't start affecting him personally until a long-winded 45 minutes into the film.

In a distractingly elaborate setup for a love interest for Tom, the film's heroine, Abbey (Selma Blair), is a dedicated environmentalist, and Tom has come up with a scheme to persuade corporations in need of tax credits to invest in companies sensitive to the environment. There is way too much going on in Ruth Epstein's script, which leaves director Harvey Kahn plowing through it as best he can. With Colm Feore, John Heard.

--Kevin Thomas

"The Deal": R for language and some violence. Complex adult themes. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes. Exclusively at the Beverly Center Cineplex, 8522 Beverly Blvd., (310) 652-7760; and the University 6, Campus Drive and Stanford opposite UCI, Irvine, (800) FANDANGO #143.

Kid holds English drama captiveWritten by Alison Hume and directed by Gillies MacKinnon, "Pure" is an alternately sentimental and brutal tale of a 10-year-old boy (Harry Eden) struggling to rescue his widowed mother (Molly Parker) from heroin addiction. This is a conventional, well-acted, English working-class drama in the familiar realist style, but it does not attain anywhere near the level of artistry and imagination of a Ken Loach film. Although deeply felt on the part of its makers, "Pure" is manipulative on the one hand and at times defies credibility on the other. Nonetheless, Eden, who holds the film together by his winning presence and doughty performance, effectively conveys the effect of severe challenges that no child should ever have to face. With David Wenham, Geraldine McEwan, Karl Johnson, Vinni Hunter and Keira Knightley.

--K.Th.

"Pure": Unrated. Heavy drug use, occasional strong violence. Entirely unsuitable for children. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. Exclusively at Laemmle's Fairfax Cinemas, 7907 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 655-4010.

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