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Archive for Saturday, March 3, 2001

Actors blow hot air in ‘Spring Forward’

March 3, 2001

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An ill wind blows no good, but shooting the breeze never hurt anyone.

In fact, it can heal the soul.

Actor-turned-writer-director Tom Gilroy's film "Spring Forward" is an understated, life-affirming roundelay, a story about two white guys sitting around talking in circles but getting somewhere, eventually.

Put two humans in the same room, and you've got a room brimming with humanity. Or its potential. Hollywood has hardened our hearts against such an idea, but Gilroy, a theater veteran, exploits its infinite possibilities with the help of Ned Beatty and Liev Schreiber, two great theatrically trained actors from the school of less-is-more.

They do prattle on, in monologues profane, wrenching and casual, and while circling the obvious they stumble onto the profound. God is in the details, and if these guys wear what they think and who they are on their sleeves, it is the incidental, unconscious remarks and selfless gestures that suggest their genuine selves.

They are mismatched from the start. Beatty is a frustrated and sad, small-town park and recreation worker. Schreiber is his new partner, just out of jail for armed robbery. Beatty swallows his anxiety; Schreiber wears his like a chip on his shoulder. Beatty silently mourns a son with AIDS. Schreiber angrily condemns an economic system in which hard work and good intentions are not enough. Beatty preaches common sense; Schreiber seeks spiritual solace.

They are, of course, more alike than not, and better off than either of them knows now that they've got each other. During meandering conversations, and an occasional encounter with a third party, they reveal themselves as disillusioned but not hardened, open-minded if not always clear-headed.

The changes that occur are minuscule yet titanic. In the end, each is more or less the same person, but better for the encounter. The pair work outdoors, and the passing seasons measure their progress like a barometer. The result, to a soundtrack of geese, woodpeckers and barking dogs, is contemplative rather than kinetic and, at the end of the day, as therapeutic as a long talk with a good friend.

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