Twilight, a crime film originally released in 1998 is an entertaining but slightly curious film. Curious because its ingredients are of high quality, yet one feels that more could have been made of them. The script offers a private eye's investigation, a mystery with its roots in the past, touches of comedy and moments of violence, and a meditation on friendship. Richard Russo, one of the writers, is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Yet at times the story seems under-powered.
The cast is brilliant. Paul Newman is a veteran gumshoe who, at the start of the film, rescues a teenage girl (Reese Witherspoon) who has run off with a young man to Mexico. After the credits roll, the story moves two years on. Newman is staying with the girl's wealthy parents, played by Gene Hackman and Susan Sarandon, both of whom are former film stars. Hackman's character is dying of cancer; Newman fancies Sarandon; the scene is set for all manner of complications.
Newman finds himself looking into the mysterious disappearance of Sarandon's former husband. Does she, or her new husband, have something to hide? You don't have to be Sam Spade to figure out that the answer is yes, but the more interesting and nuanced question is: who, precisely, is guilty of what? Does Newman's old pal, another ex-detective, played by James Garner, have some of the answers?
The soundtrack is by Elmer Bernstein, and it's clear that a lot of money was spent on this film. It wasn't a box office success and yet it's perfectly watchable. I felt, however, that a tighter script would have made the movie more memorable. Some of the gentler and amusing moments seemed to belong in a different film. Perhaps the writers were simply trying to do too much.
With Lew Archer/Harper (Newman) in one role and Philip Marlowe/Jim Rockford (Garner) in the other, it should have been a much better film. I was surprised by Reece Witherspoon's nude scene in an otherwise middle-of-the-road movie clearly aimed at an older, presumably more sedate, demographic.
Thanks, Fred. I suspect the thinking of the film-makers wasn't quite clear enough.
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