Projections - Movie Reviews

Waking the Dead Waking the Dead

Combining politics and love from a somber literary source and the settings of the 70's and 80's as a disjointed screenplay thwarts the possibilities of the central relationship between Billy Crudup's Fielding Pierce and Jennifer Connelly's Sarah Williams in the contrived, hackneyed Waking the Dead.

Keith Gordon's film unsuccessfully cuts between Fielding's guilty, if disillusioned past and the ensuing images of the woman he may have turned on.  The simple-minded script and low-scale production values don't help the cause and seductive potential of differing, intimate political  types.

Opening in 1974, Fielding learns of Sarah, an intuitive radical activists who died in a car-bombing.  Was it politically motivated, probably, but the whys of her demise are not investigated as the film leaps back and forth between the 70's and 80's.

We see their first time together when she is employed by his publishing-hippie brother and he's a Coast Guard shore patroller.  Waking then reveals Fielding's movement into the political arena, and in 1982, he has a chance for election as a senator.  Yet, he remains hunted by her visage, with scary voices in the crowd that are never able to be felt.  His paranoia may be promoted by the fact  that she was assisting Chilean refugees when she died.  But those details aren't expounded upon and  Waking the Dead is just a reason to make radical politics a sign of the times.  Whether it's the 70's or the 80's the uneventful period has a synthetic aura, like the recent The 60's miniseries.

Their relationship is tritely-fated from the start as he questions his "betrayal" of Sarah.  A political campaign strategy isn't clear which recalls Bulworth.  Even his internal strife gets into a breakdown mode at the wrong time, as a political aid (Hal Holbrook), a fiancee (Molly Parker) and sister (Janet McTeer) are more into themselves.  As Fielding hits his bottom, the title gets its meaning from a special visit that enlists some clinched lines.

Coupled in Inventing the Abbots, a flawed but more coherent period drama set in the 50's, sizable roles are here for Crudup and Connelly but they are handled tepidly, primarily due to an uneven story.

Crudup has the more cumbersome part that is hard to manage between the eras, somewhat appealing as a young adult, but the latter romantic, maddening behavior is overdone, amid a climb up the political ladder, and budgetary limitations which are evident when Fielding gets elected, with no one around in his camp.

Connelly, always projecting an alluring presence, insinuates a puzzling, if hypnotic charm in the savvy streets of Chicago, but nothing like her reactions to Rufus Sewell in the visually dynamic Dark City.

Behind the top liners, Janet McTeer is underutilized in a somewhat non-specific role.  Paul Hipp doesn't connect with the radically-honed Danny Pierce, as Fielding's brother and Sandra Oh obviously is out of place as his Korean lover.

Though Gordon moves the back and forth proceedings with some self-assurance Waking the Dead is never involving or really conscious about what it's saying.

Waking the Dead

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