The Neon Bible

on March 01, 1996 by by
   Without a doubt, "The Neon Bible" takes the prize for the most disappointing film at Cannes. Telling the story (based on a novel by John Kennedy Toole) of a young boy (Jacob Tierney) growing up in the 1940s in a Bible Belt town with an abusive father (Denis Leary), an overly sensitive mother (Diana Scarwid) and a flamboyant aunt (Gena Rowlands), the film is a series of disjointed vignettes. Even Terence Davies fans will find its rambling, incoherent structure an unpleasant surprise.
   Still, "The Neon Bible" has two redeeming features. The first is Gena Rowlands, who is worth watching no matter what she's in. Rowlands portrays Mae, a campy nightclub singer who, as tacky as she is tactless, enlivens the film whenever she appears. The second is Michael Coulter's superb cinematography. Bathing his actors in red and blue light, Coulter gives the film a supernatural glow. Anyone who slogs through the film's 92 minutes will remember its last indelible image of a train silhouetted against an orange sky.    Starring Gena Rowlands, Denis Leary and Diana Scarwid. Directed and written by Terence Davies. Produced by Elizabeth Karlsen and Olivia Stewart. A Miramax release. Not yet rated. Drama. Running time: 92 min.
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