The Myth Of Fingerprints

on September 17, 1997 by Jon Alon Walz
   Bart Freundlich's star-studded, masterful film about the simultaneous unraveling and restructuring of a seemingly all-American family during a Thanksgiving reunion was an unexpected Sundance surprise and a big hit with audiences of all ages. In the Good Machine production, after a three-year absence siblings Warren, Mia, Jake and Leigh reluctantly return to their parent's home in New England for a standard holiday get-together.
   From the moment of arrival, however, the personality conflicts and infighting that has kept this family apart for so long resurface. But things are a bit different this time around: Mia, an aggressive control freak (played brilliantly by Julianne Moore), brings her husband Elliot, a boring, unfeeling intellectual; and Jake arrives with his girlfriend, Margaret, an effervescent charmer who has the family under her spell in an instant.
   Through the constant conflict, the characters are forced to reevaluate who they are and where they stand, not only as members of the family but as adults. In a mature homage to the Bergman classic "Smiles of a Summer Night," several of the characters, almost mystically, fall in and out of love with those that they perhaps shouldn't, and revelations are made that were best kept as secrets.
   The only failing notes are that the film's short running time doesn't allow for the kind of in-depth character analysis and dramatic situations, and the pacing is erratic throughout. Nonetheless, "The Myth of Fingerprints" is an impressive piece of work by a new filmmaker that, despite its low budget, looks as good as studio fare. Starring Blythe Danner, Hope Davis, Julianne Moore, Roy Scheider and Noah Wylie. Directed and written by Bart Freundlich. Produced by Mary Jane Skalski, Tim Perell and Bart Freundlich. A Sony Classics release. Drama. Rated R for sexuality and language. Running time: 90 min
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