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‘Never Met Picasso’: Comedy of Behaviors

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Margot Kidder is back, looking far too young and beautiful to be the mother of a 30-year-old son, and giving a beguiling performance as an easygoing parent in Stephen Kijak’s skittish “Never Met Picasso.” It’s a wry comedy, decidedly on the callow side, yet has a strong personal quality. “Never” is minor, but in a promising, inviting way that suggests Kijak is a filmmaker with a shrewd, amusing sensibility.

The setting is Boston’s attractive South End, where Kidder, cast as an actress named Genna Magnus, is rehearsing a dreadful avant-garde production while her artist-son Andrew (Alexis Arquette) is feeling at sea both in his personal and creative life. He’s about to be shaken up on both fronts: first, with the death of his beloved Uncle Alfred (Alvin Epstein), a witty older gay man and crucial role model, and second, the arrival of a new man in his life, the sexy, confident Jerry (Don McKellar).

Kijak is adept at guiding his large cast, with Arquette and Kidder given the chance to come across as quite appealing for all their tendencies toward self-absorption. Kijak senses how crucial behavior is to comedy, but he needs to develop a sharper satirical edge.

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He finds gentle humor in the posturing of various creative types but should have revealed a greater acknowledgment of just how pretentious most of them are. (This is one of those pictures in which you wonder how all these people manage to support themselves while doing so much hanging around, assuming attitudes and striking poses.) The other key character is Andrew’s best pal Lucy (Georgia Ragsdale), also an artist, who finds herself attracted to Genna.

So much time is devoted to scenesters doing their thing that Kijak’s concern for the contributions of gays and lesbians lost to history because of their sexual orientation tends to get lost in the shuffle. “Never Met Picasso” suggests that between this smart-looking picture and his next, Kijak needs to develop a greater degree of detachment.

* Unrated. Times guidelines: some lovemaking, some language, adult themes.

‘Never Met Picasso’

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Alexis Arquette: Andrew Magnus

Margot Kidder: Genna Magnus

Georgia Ragsdale: Lucy

Don McKellar: Jerry

A Turbulent Arts release of a Mighty Reel production in association with DLR Entertainment. Writer-producer-director Stephen Kijak. Producer Patrick Cunningham. Executive producer Jennifer Ryan. Cinematographer David Tames. Editor Angelica Brisk. Costumes Kathleen Chisholm. Music Kristin Hersh. Production designers Humberto Cordero, Julie Lupien. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.

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* Exclusively at the Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6869.


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