From the sublime to the ridiculous . . . and the ridiculous has the edge in "Parallel Lives," a star-studded, partially improvised, "Big Chill"-type film Sunday on Showtime.
In last year's "Chantilly Lace," producer, director and writer Linda Yellin gave well-known actresses the improvisational reins in a filmed confessional of feminine affirmation and bonding. Using the same technique, Yellin returns with several of the same actresses, plus male counterparts, making up a celebrity cast big enough for an Aaron Spelling disaster epic: Liza Minnelli, Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, Ally Sheedy, Jack Klugman, Treat Williams, Dudley Moore and Robert Wagner, to name a few.
This time, the actors get to flex their improv muscles in a college fraternity-sorority reunion setting, fraught with soon-to-be exposed lust, resentment, desperation and rage, spiced with unexpected death and a police investigation.
Watching good actors do their thing is intermittently fun, and the naturalness of speech and interaction is a kick, but not the thin plot and trite characters with which the players are stuck. Even the improv grates as the actors too obviously enjoy their own cleverness.