Old Wine, Old Bottle

Even Robert Frost's poetry can't save this pseudo-sentimental drama.

Kelley Morris (Chris Klein) is a rich, clean-cut, typical Ivy-Leaguer who's about to graduate when his dad sends him a brand new car. Sneaking the car into town, he gets into an altercation with Jasper (Josh Hartnett) after flirting with Jasper's girlfriend Samantha (Leelee Sobieski) while at Samantha's family-owned diner. This leads to a violent car chase and ends up in the burning down of the diner. The court orders the two boys to help in rebuilding the diner and that means Kelley has to stay in Jasper's household.

Kelley wanders in and out of work and the neighbouring woods, keeping up a stuffy appearance, which somehow causes Samantha to fall for him, aided by a piece of poetry by Robert Frost. There follows a brief period of indecision for Samantha, which doesn't stop her from wandering around some picturesque scenery with Kelley.

Things finally come to a head when Samantha goes off with Kelley to Boston for the week-end. On their return, things turn ugly as Samantha's recurrent knee problem is diagnosed as having turned cancerous. For the rest of the movie, the three main characters work their way around each other and the problem.

The plot is pretty hackneyed and might have as well been an "HBO original". A lot of it is rather pushing the credibility issue as the changes are too abrupt to be truly meaningful. Samantha's sudden fascination for Kelley is quite unsubstantiated by the movie. The characters are at best workable, mouthing gruff dialogues or spouting soft, mushy stuff as their role demands. The problem lies simply because they are too good to be true.

The setting of the movie is the only decent part of this film. The woods and the rolling grasslands give off a dreamy and serene atmosphere, which unfortunately seems to send off the characters to sleep. However, the emphasis on a typical American town is too pronounced , what with a Sheriff, the local drugstore, et al. All this makes the movie quite unrealistic and forced.

The actors are just about bearable. Kelley walks around in his pleated trousers while Jasper lounges around in loose jeans, both trying desperately (and failing) to look authentic. Samantha is the only decent figure in the film. Apart from her Jodie Foster resemblance, she puts up quite a good act and might be the only saving grace in the movie, besides the pieces of Frost she keeps quoting.

The movie might have been really good if it were not for the thousands of other clones floating around. The final opinion - if you're in the mood for some pseudo-sentimental drama and have two hours to spare, this is the movie for you.

This article was first published on 17 Jul 2000.