The Austin Chronicle

Walking and Talking

Rated R, 86 min. Directed by Nicole Holofcener. Starring Catherine Keener, Anne Heche, Liev Schreiber, Todd Field, Kevin Corrigan.

REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., Aug. 9, 1996

Although it took first-time writer/director Nicole Holofcener five years to get Walking and Talking to theatres, this film is definitely worth the wait. Rarely does a first film depict characters who seem so comfortably familiar, and even less frequently are these characters three-dimensional women. Based on Holofcener's journal entries during her best friend's engagement, Walking and Talking tells the story of Amelia (Keener) and Laura (Heche), best friends since the sixth grade. When Laura and her live-in boyfriend Frank (Field) get engaged after one of the most oddly romantic onscreen proposals, her relationship with single Amelia undergoes moments of intense stress and bonding. While this event precipitates the film's central conflict and prompts changes in Laura and Frank's relationship, Walking and Talking equally focuses on Amelia's life as a single woman in New York City. Amelia's nebulous relationship with old boyfriend Andrew (Schreiber) comes under greater scrutiny as she watches Laura and Frank grow more “grotesquely in love.” Holofcener is quite thoughtful in constructing her characters. Many single women will identify with the frustrations of Amelia's life. Thankfully, she never appears pathetic, and Laura's pre-wedded bliss contains enough ugly moments that wonderfully capture the way wedding pressures can morph even the most level-headed woman into an insensitive prima donna. Privileging the bond between Amelia and Laura, Holofcener's script deftly illustrates how a friendship, much like a romantic relationship, needs constant care and often requires compromises; each friend gets to be selfish at some point as long as she takes turns. In addition to an engaging script, Walking and Talking benefits from Catherine Keener's strong, quirky performance. Long the favorite leading lady of independent director Tom DiCillo (Living in Oblivion, Johnny Suede), Keener's talents deserve greater recognition outside the independent film circuit. While Heche may be best known for her role on the daytime soap Another World, her acting in Walking and Talking suggests that she, too, is destined for larger film roles. Strong supporting performances by Field (Twister, Sleep With Me) and Schreiber (Denise Calls Up) round out the film. Cinematographer Michael Spiller's previous experience photographing New York City for director Hal Hartley's films gives Walking and Talking its authenticity, and Billy Bragg's musical contributions provide just the right amount of cynically romantic pop. More than a chick flick or the next summer date movie, Walking and Talking is an achingly humorous and accurate portrayal of the relationships between women and men and the reasons why we endure them.

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