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Review:: ‘80s indie auteur Alan Rudolph returns with stilted fable ‘Ray Meets Helen’

Sondra Locke and Keith Carradine in the movie “Ray Meets Helen.”
(Joyce Rudolph)

“You can’t go back,” maintains Sondra Locke’s lost soul in “Ray Meets Helen,” director-writer Alan Rudolph’s first feature in 15 years.

The same might be said of the quirky romantic fable itself. While it bears many of the thematic and stylistic hallmarks that made Rudolph a reliable figure on the ’80s indie scene with such films as “Choose Me” and “Trouble in Mind,” this mannered character study comes across as more affected than affecting.

Set in some sort of alternate universe, the film traces the late-in-life relationship between Locke’s lonely widow and Keith Carradine’s Ray, a former boxer now barely getting by as an insurance investigator.

Thanks to a pair of fluke incidents, Ray and Helen are given the financial opportunity to reinvent themselves, and, through their entangled twists of fate, proceed to discover each other — or at least the people they’re pretending to be.

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While it’s intriguing to see Carradine, whose association with Rudolph goes back to 1978’s “Welcome to L.A.,” tackling a character who sounds as if he just emerged from a musty dime-store novel, engaging in an urgent affair of the heart with Locke (returning to the screen after an 18-year absence) nothing feels organic.

All the familiar elements are there, from the offbeat dialogue to the jazz-inflected score and art-infused production design, but Ray and Helen never convincingly connect.

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‘Ray Meets Helen’

Not rated

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Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; Laemmle Playhouse, Pasadena; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino

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