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Limbo

Director/Writer: John Sayles
Screen Gems; R; 126 minutes
Release: 6/99
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, David Strathairn, Vanessa Martinez, Kris Kristofferson

John Sayles' latest movie begins in Juneau, Alaska. Mary Mastrantonio steals the screen as Donna De Angelo, a faded singer whose string of unsuccessful loves has left her with bad memories and an angry daughter. David Strathairn plays Joe, a rugged outdoorsman gripped by guilt. The injured couple gingerly begin a relationship amidst the economically depressed and environmentally ravaged town (Sayles treats these two themes with a characteristically heavy hand). The three form a sturdy triangle of vivid, well-drawn characters. A fine supporting cast adds further depth to Limbo. Great, right?

Yes, then no. Halfway through the movie Sayles derails the plot in a bold but misguided narrative move. It's as if the three characters are suddenly stranded on a remote island: the social vision is fatally foreshortened and the tension shifts from relevant, engaging issues into distracting minutiae of survival. The audience's patience is further tested by a copout 'cliffhanger' ending.


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