Projections - Movie Reviews

The Caveman's Valentine

The Caveman's Valentine

Samuel L. Jackson has a new hairdo in The Caveman's Valentine which challenges him even more than Unbreakable where he was a comic book collector with brittle bones.

The tall charismatic actor heads northeast from Philadelphia to New York in a coiffure of dread locks and many coats covering his body in his reunion with actress turned director Kasi Lemmons and gives another highly watchable performance that rivals his philandering doctor in the affecting and atmospheric Eve's Bayou.  That film wove an alluring story with layered characterizations that hit on many emotional levels and used its summery setting quite well.  However, Lemmons' new film is most persuasive from Jackson's paranoid schizophrenic Romulus Ledbetter and the vision she creates from his mind.

Adapted for the screen by George Dawes Green and based on his acclaimed 1994 novel, The Caveman's Valentine doesn't live up to its dramatic potential as it presents a thriller format with the unstable homeless Romulus acting as an unusual detective on a mission.

Lemmons cogently depicts Romulus' fall from grace as a Juillard-trained composer; a promising pianist now a Manhattan cave dweller.  Within his eroding mind there is an imaginary character he calls Stuyvesant who tracks him from the Chrysler Building and shoots colored rays of light at him in waves.

The murder mystery story line comes into play when the caveman, finds the corpse of a young man, Scotty, outside his cave on Valentine's Day.  Romulus gradually feels that Scotty did not take his own life.

As he becomes convinced that a celebrated photographer, David Leppenraub (Colm Feore) is the murderer, he's got to overcome his mental instability, as the screenplay seems to suggest that one must not be too wound up in the cerebral cortex.

The duality of solving the murder to better his life with his embarrassed daughter and estranged wife is fascinating as Jackson expresses his inner torment not like some kind of strange routine.  Yet his delusions also fill the investigation with an obscurity that is hard to thwart.

Still, even if Romulus has to become a Lt. Columbo whose sleuthing finally doesn't mean much to the viewer, Jackson hasn't created suspense as much as calibrating nicely into mental imbalance.  Lemmons films many scenes with surprising power, especially the disturbing worlds in The Caveman's Valentine, many which manifest his demented unconscious universe, as the mysteries of a bizarre mind come into focus better than the untraditional methods of a demented detective.

The Caveman's Valentine

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