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MOVIE REVIEW : How to Approach This 'Intersection'

January 21, 1994|KENNETH TURAN | TIMES FILM CRITIC

"Hell is other people," one of the characters in "Intersection" (citywide) allows in a philosophical moment, but that isn't quite accurate. Hell is other people in movies like this.

A dithering romantic drama about a self-absorbed dolt of a husband going through yet another midlife crisis, unable to choose between two stunning women who throw themselves at him and inexplicably put up with his whiny indecisiveness, "Intersection" in truth isn't intense enough to be called hell. Purgatory would be more like it.

Based on a French novel that director Claude Sautet turned into his 1970 film "Les Choses de la Vie," "Intersection" as directed by Mark Rydell is riddled with miscalculations. It is miscast, filled with characters who are incapable of eliciting sympathy, and relates a story so unsatisfying one can only wonder that it got made at all.

Vincent Eastman (Richard Gere) is the man with too many women. The architect of choice in Vancouver, B.C., prone to peering over half-glasses and muttering about fenestration, Eastman designs buildings that cause an admiring associate to say, "somewhere Frank Lloyd Wright is eating his heart out."

What Vincent lacks, to steal a title from a far better film, is a design for living. He has been married for 16 years to his high-powered partner Sally (Sharon Stone), an ambitious woman who wears her hair in a bun and cares more about clients than carnal pleasures. "It's not a family," Vincent grouses, "it's a corporation with a kid." That would be 13-year-old Meaghan (Jenny Morrison) who is the apple, pear and peach of her dad's eye.

The other woman is the free-spirited Olivia Marshak (Lolita Davidovich), a counterculture journalist so bursting with youthful joie d'vivre you want to hide under a rock and so understanding of Vincent's inability to truly commit she makes Dr. Joyce Brothers look like Rush Limbaugh.

Most of the movie is made up of Vincent equivocating about whom he really loves and remembering the good times with both women, trying to balance how much Sally has meant to him with how good Olivia makes him feel. Problems, problems, problems.

All the principals certainly look glamorous in Vilmos Zsigmond's glossy cinematography, with Gere's windblown hair nicely setting off his Armani clothes and Stone looking regal in jewels precious enough to get a screen credit. The only thing the three stars can't do is get anyone involved in the David Rayfiel and Marshall Brickman script.

For one thing, though the story's dynamics and the Eastmans' 16-year marriage tell you that this is at least in part an older-woman, younger-woman situation, Stone and Davidovich are in reality only a few years apart in age and putting Stone's hair up in that bun does not go a long way toward making her look like Grandma Moses.

For another thing, Gere is about the last actor you want to see having a crisis of conscience on screen. Handsome and talented though he is, he is also too self-absorbed to be empathetic while searching his soul, and his most successful roles, from "An Officer and a Gentleman" to "Internal Affairs" and "Pretty Woman," have wisely not called on him to be the kind of audience surrogate he is supposed to be here.

Already burdened with distant actors and an artificial script, "Intersection" does not need its peculiar central plot contrivance, which starts with the film's mysterious opening scene and closes with a leaden finale. Midlife crises are invariably a bore on screen, but this one is worst than most.

*

'Intersection'

Richard Gere: Vincent Eastman

Sharon Stone: Sally Eastman

Lolita Davidovich: Olivia Marshak

Martin Landau: Neal

David Selby: Richard Quarry

Jenny Morrison: Meaghan Eastman

A Bud Yorkin production in association with Frederic Golchan, released by Paramount Pictures. Director Mark Rydell. Producers Bud Yorkin, Mark Rydell. Executive producer Frederic Golchan. Screenplay David Rayfiel and Marshall Brickman. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. Editor Mark Warner. Costumes Ellen Mirojnick. Music James Newton Howard. Production design Harold Michelson. Art director Yvonne Hurst. Set decorator Dominique Fauquet-Lemaitre. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.

MPAA rating: R, for "some language and sexuality." Times guidelines: brief nudity, sexual situations and an extended automobile crash.

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