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TUNED IN

Anders' 'Sun" Is Involving Drama

August 18, 2001|DARYL H. MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sometimes, a film goes where an audience doesn't want to follow.

"Things Behind the Sun," inspired by director Allison Anders' own rape as a preteen, is one such project. Yet to avoid this film simply because of its subject matter would be to miss an absorbing drama that provides rare insight into the mind's emotional defense systems and the heart's healing ways.

The maker of such films as "Gas Food Lodging" and "Mi Vida Loca," Anders brings to "Things Behind the Sun"--which debuts tonight at 9 on Showtime--an ability to balance unvarnished reality with poetic grace.

Working with co-writer Kurt Voss, she tells the story of Sherry McGrale, a singer-songwriter whose haunting song about rape is beginning to receive airplay.

When her music--as well as a drinking-related arrest--catches the attention of a rock magazine, Sherry finds herself visited by the publication's star reporter. Though Sherry doesn't recognize the reporter at first, she shares a past with him, and for either of them to move forward, they must come to grips with that past.

Kim Dickens portrays Sherry as a woman of incredible vitality who nevertheless seems to be sleepwalking through life--too afraid to wake up to the horrors suppressed in her mind. As the reporter, Gabriel Mann comes across as a guy whose easy charm and gentle disposition mask inner torment. And Don Cheadle conveys a quiet ache as the ex-boyfriend and manager whose unshakable love for Sherry is the one thing she can count on.

Anders re-creates enough of Sherry's and the reporter's violated pasts to make one's flesh crawl. Then she depicts two simple yet heartbreakingly beautiful acts of compassion--sending an overwhelmingly life-affirming message.

Surf Report

SPECIALS

"Bowie at BBC America" pays tribute to pop star David Bowie with a collection of documentaries and performances including the U.S. premieres of two concerts and the cult sci-fi movie "The Man Who Fell to Earth" (5 p.m. BBC America).

News anchor Sam Donaldson hosts "An American Celebration at Ford's Theatre," a gala event including performers Mya and Billy Gilman and attended by President George W. Bush (10 p.m. ABC).

SERIES

Country music radio show "Grand Ole Opry Live," which has been broadcast on TNN, moves to Country Music Television in an expanded 60-minute format including on-stage performances and behind-the-scenes interviews (8 p.m. CMT).

SPORTS

WNBA playoffs conference semifinals (4 and 6 p.m. ESPN).

The NFL preseason continues with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens taking on the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J. (5 p.m. CBS).

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