Friday November 17, 1995
Bing Crosby is singing, snow is falling, the world is falling down: Rachel (Mia Farrow), pajamaed and "cocoa'd," is telling husband Tom (Tony Goldwyn) her Christmas dreams on Christmas Eve. And a tearful Tom is telling Rachel that he's hired someone to kill her.
Funny? It is, in fact, the one laugh-out-loud moment in Norman Rene's "Reckless," a "dark comedy" and a fantastical meditation on holidays and forgetfulness and fact-facing and denial, and a disorienting and disturbing film. It doesn't do, exactly, what "Home for the Holidays" does for Thanksgiving; what writer Craig Lucas and director Rene are after is far darker and morose.
Rachel is the kind of person who dismisses all knowledge that contradicts her world view. When Tom is crying, for instance, and Rachel doesn't know why, she assumes that the cause is the TV news. "I'll turn it off," she says. "It's not real."
This gets to the point of Lucas' play, which he's now adapted to the screen: Rachel is an archetypal American in the sense that she refuses to disbelieve this is the best of all worlds and that dissenting information can't simply be dismissed. Lucas sees it as a form of cowardice and it is. It's also what has driven Tom to bring the hit man into their Springfield home on Christmas Eve. And it's what makes Rachel's subsequent journey--kind of "It's a Miserable Life"--such a troubling trip.
It's not a pleasant film, but in its challenging way it makes us look at ourselves a bit differently and it certainly puts a spin on Christmas. Some audiences will be more than disturbed by what goes on, although divulging too much of the story line would dilute its effect.
When Rachel flees her house to avoid being killed--the worst rebuke she can spit at Tom is "This is so meeeeaaan!"--she meets Lloyd (Scott Glenn), a kind but slightly mysterious man who brings Rachel home to his wife, Pooty (Mary Louise Parker), a paraplegic who also communicates through sign language. Together, the three form a family based on assumptions that eventually splinter and crack. Lloyd and Rachel take to the road, visiting every Springfield in the nation ("There's one in every state," Lloyd says) searching for . . . what? Rachel's self-realization is a good bet, as is the essence of America, the root of its happy myopia and the resulting aversion to perceiving the truth.
Farrow, who seems to pick and choose her roles with care, is quite affecting as Rachel because she mixes vulnerability and self-absorption as few others can. And she's backed by a cast that's not only capable, but whose members seem somehow content to find themselves in a film that asks so much of them, and of us.
Reckless, 1995. PG-13, for complex psychological themes and some disturbing images. A Playhouse International Pictures production, released by the Samuel Goldwyn Co. Director Norman Rene. Producer Amy J. Kaufman. Executive producer Lindsay Law. Screenplay by Craig Lucas. Cinematographer Frederick Elmes. Editor Michael Berenbaum. Costumes Walker Hicklin. Music Stephen Endelman. Production design Andrew Jackness. Art director Philip Messina. Set designer Daniel Boxer. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. Mia Farrow as Rachel. Scott Glenn as Lloyd. Mary-Louise Parker as Pooty. Tony Goldwyn as Tom. Eileen Brennan as Sister Margaret.