A Smile Like Yours
1997, R, 99 min. Directed by Keith Samples. Starring Lauren Holly, Greg Kinnear, Jill Hennessy, Joan Cusack.
REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., Aug. 29, 1997
Contrary to prevailing opinion, most film critics are not sadistic bastards who relish every chance to carve up bad movies with our long-knife prose. Let it be known, however, that I felt something close to actual physical pain watching likable stars Greg Kinnear and Lauren Holly slowly drown in the dismal pit of this bungled romantic comedy. Neither should bear any blame for a script that's at least three drafts shy of marginal viability, never mind the effervescent magic to which it aspires. The story of childless couple Danny and Jennifer (he's an elevator contractor, she designs fragrances for aromatherapy) whose marriage is strained by their ever-more desperate efforts to conceive is uninspired, but worse, it lurches so gracelessly from scenes of whimsy to boorish sex comedy to keening earnestness that it never allows viewers to get their bearings. Former Rysher Entertainment CEO-turned-director Samples is, not to put too fine a point on it, a talentless dolt who's way out of his depth in a genre that requires an exquisitely attuned ear for emotional pitch and tone. On too many occasions, arch, circumspect Nora Ephron-like dialogue and sensibilities (or at least a weak imitation thereof) will establish a scene, only to be replaced by leering, rib-nudging Married… With Children riffs on rectal exams and sperm-sample collection. Kinnear, known for his wry and flippant persona, actually comports himself with great dignity here, again hinting at as-yet unrealized major star potential. As a guy who's both a man's man and a devoted, sensitive hubby, he's the closest thing this aimless, uninvolving film has to a solid center. Holly is a lesser talent whose monochromatic quality of naïve sweetness works in some scenes, though not in others that call for anger, despair, or bold sexuality. Cusack and Hennessy pull thankless duty in clichéd roles as, respectively, Jennifer's loyal, wisecracking single friend and the predatory hussy who's trying to seduce Danny. None of these actors (including Shirley MacLaine, who beams in for an inexplicable late cameo) deserve to share in the critical flagellation A Smile Like Yours is receiving. Instead, we should save all our strength for laying into the director and writers who've sought to reduce the beguiling mysteries of romance (and our love of graceful cinematic tributes to it) to mindless formula. That's a transgression for which no mercy should be shown.