Directed By: Chris Menges
Screenplay By: Scott Sommer
Based on the novella by Scott Sommer
Produced By: Anthea Sylbert
Cast: David Arnott, Goldie Hawn, Arliss Howard, Keith Carradine, James Gammon
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes
Review Date: August 20, 2010
When I think of the words crisscross, I feel many things. Its not often I hear these words, but when I do, I manifest an image of two nameless, faceless silhouettes in quarrel. Their tiff is set to a backdrop of white tinged with an ultimatum of red. This image, while ambiguous, evokes feelings of tension, growth, and self-revelation. These two people aren’t fighting each other, but instead for something this obscure and anonymous atmosphere purports to offer but denies disclosing. Without delving too deeply into pretentious digression, I hoped that the Goldie Hawn film CrissCross at least alluded to the excitement and mystery of my minds eye. Instead, I got a film so terribly stale and lacking in substance that it came as no surprise that this film marked the beginning of the end of her career.
The story begins promisingly enough with a brief but honest narration by our protagonist, a young boy by the name of Chris Cross. Dirty Harry Callahan and Michael Clayton, to be sure, were compelling leads in solid films that deserved their name stamped on the cover. Chris Cross (David Arnott), on the other hand, is a whiny runt. I am compelled to sympathize with his character because he comes from nothing and works hard to make a life for himself and his single mother named Tracy (Goldie Hawn). The kid works about four jobs, all of them menial, and still manages to go to school during the day. However, David Arnott works an accent so forced and asinine it’s difficult to endure his complaints. There are a few touching moments where he transcends the void he created for his character: though overlong, the scene involving Chris’s discovery of Tracy’s profession is heartbreaking. Still, this scene lacks a lasting emotional punch and only indicates what’s missing from the film: realistic characters.
In addition to Arnott, we have Goldie Hawn trying her hand at dramatic cinema. An actress who was typecast for her comedic edge, I was excited to see if she was capable of pulling off a damaged character who works multiple jobs and can’t keep a man for the life of her. Goldie Hawn clearly tries her best, and I give her credit where it’s deserved, but she sings a one note tune throughout the film and it isn’t long before our interest wanes in Tracy. It’s unfortunate because Hawn is a talented actress, but she just didn’t create enough dimensions for Tracy.
Weak performances aside, at its most rudimentary, the plot is interesting: a boy must turn to peddling drugs to help support his fiscally troubled mother. However, Director Chris Menges spins a yarn so convoluted and contrived that it becomes laughable. The problem isn’t so much with the substance of the story, but rather the lack of cohesion and subtext. While it’s relatively easy to follow the main storyline, the subplots intended for character development are insufficient and utterly fall flat. The scenes in which Chris seeks his shell-shocked father who abandoned him years ago (Keith Carradine, stoicism personified) are painfully dull. The ending effectively echoes the themes introduced at the beginning of the story, but nothing is resolved. It was frustrating to watch a film that essentially went nowhere. Our characters ended up right where they started, and we learned nothing new about them. So what’s the point?
Really, there isn’t one. I will say the film cleverly implements news footage of the moon landings to set the 1969 vibe, but to no avail. It’s an effective element that lacks the strength to buffer the plainness of the story. There is action, love, suspense, violence, and even self-revelation, so it’s baffling that none of these traits were fully fleshed out in CrissCross. Rather, the film feels overstuffed and incomplete. Change the channel if you see this failure onscreen.
Kyle Kogan is a film critic living in Chicago.