Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her

on January 22, 2000 by Annlee Ellingson
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   Workshopped at the Sundance Film Institute's Writer's Lab in January 1998, "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" appropriately premiered at Sundance 2000. Rodrigo Garcia's gentle directorial debut loosely interweaves the love lives of five Los Angeles women who thread in and out of each other's social circles without realizing it.

   Dr. Elaine Keener (Glenn Close), despite her professional success, anxiously waits by the phone for a colleague who will never call. Rebecca (Holly Hunter), a bank manger, thought she was satisfied with her three-year affair with a married man until she discovers she's pregnant and the obvious decision isn't necessarily the right one. Rose (Kathy Baker), a single mother of a teenage son, is intrigued by the dwarf who moves in across the street. Christine (Calista Flockhart), a tarot card reader, takes care of her terminally ill lover Lilly (Valeria Golino). And Kathy (Amy Brenneman), a police detective, helps her blind sister Carol (Cameron Diaz) prepare for her many dates instead of pursuing romance herself.

   As intimated by the title, Garcia gazes at his characters tenderly, lingering on the moments that define who they are--Dr. Keener's interest in her patient's diamond earrings, Rose's curiosity in her new neighbor, Christine's memories of her unfortunate canaries. His leisurely hand-held camera and graceful close-ups contemplate what may be going through these women's minds.

   Unfortunately, the peaceful pacing turns out to be a bit of a drag by the halfway mark, making the movie seem longer than it actually is, and Garcia's natural lighting isn't always the most flattering.

   Still, there's a reason such talented thespians agreed to appear in this independent production: Its greatest strength is its plethora of complicated roles for women. Starring Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Cameron Diaz, Calista Flockhart, Amy Brenneman and Kathy Baker. Directed and written by Rodrigo Garcia. Produced by Jon Avnet, Lisa Lindstrom and Marsha Oglesby. An MGM release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexual content and language. Running time: 110 min

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