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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Termini Station,’ Dewhurst’s Last Film, Her Best

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The late Colleen Dewhurst was a rough-hewn goddess of a woman, a great actress of majestic presence and burning intelligence whose acting triumphs more often occurred on stage and television than film. But she returned to her native Canada for “Termini Station,” which proved to be her final--and best--film. (It’s at the Monica 4-Plex.)

She is perfectly cast as Molly Dushane, a clearly brilliant but burning-out middle-aged woman stuck in a small Canadian town, where she has recently moved in with her son Harvey (Gordon Clapp). A onetime beauty ravaged by alcoholism, she is by God not going to go gently into the night.

She curses TV soaps, holes up in her room with her beloved opera recordings and stows empty liquor bottles under her bed. Her dream is to go to the cradle of opera, Italy--the film’s title comes from Rome’s train station--but instead she is given to stumbling out of her bedroom in gaudy disarray, screaming, “I want passion back in my life!” while her son and daughter-in-law Liz (Debra McGrath) are attempting to entertain Harvey’s boss and his wife in proper, formal fashion.

The Dushane family have much in common with the tortured families of Eugene O’Neill, of which Dewhurst, along with Jason Robards, was the foremost interpreter of her generation. The Dushanes have been traumatized by the death of Molly’s husband (Gordon Pinsent) and the unspeakable, not fully acknowledged events surrounding it.

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While Molly craves passion, her daughter Micheline (Megan Follows) and Harvey are most of the time in a state of enraged frustration. Micheline bounces from one minimum-wage job to the next but mainly she is a streetwalker in leather jacket and jeans, so hostile you wonder how she ever snags a john. Harvey is striving for a promotion in the tire dealership where he works, struggling to make mortgage payments on his unfinished tract house, trying to keep his outrageous mother and sister from threatening his job and wrecking his life--and avoiding dealing with his impotence. His wife deserves all our sympathy.

Although the entire cast is splendid in its theatrical way, the film, while admirable and worth seeing, is itself not up to Dewhurst’s level. Director Allan King, who remains best known for his 1967 “Warrendale,” a landmark documentary on emotionally disturbed children, and first-time screenwriter Colleen Murphy seem as trapped in the drab Canadian hinterlands as their people.

In short, “Termini Station” (Times-rated Mature for language and adult themes) is stuck in the usual kitchen-sink realism that makes the Anglo-Canadian--as opposed to the often exciting Quebecois--cinema so often dull. “Termini Station” craves for a sense of style as much as Molly hungers for Italy.

Unlike their mother, who is only too self-aware, Micheline and Harvey are utterly without humor in their wearying, near-constant state of anger. It’s too bad that King and Murphy can’t view perpetual high dudgeon with a sense of absurdity, which in turn would allow for comic relief, albeit of a very dark hue. Unfortunately for their film, King and Murphy take themselves as seriously as they do the Dushanes.

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‘Termini Station’

Colleen Dewhurst: Molly Dushane

Megan Follows: Micheline Dushane

Gordon Clapp: Harvey Dushane

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Debra McGrath: Liz Dushane

A Northern Arts Entertainment release of a Saturday Plays production. Producer-director Allan King. Executive producers Don Haig, Douglas Leiterman. Screenplay Colleen Murphy. Cinematographer Brian R.R. Hebb. Editor Gordon McClellan. Music Mychael Danna. Production design Lillian Sarafinchan. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Times-rated Mature (language, adult themes).


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