Afterglow

1997, R, 113 min. Directed by Alan Rudolph. Starring Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jonny Lee Miller.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 13, 1998

Afterglow is an adult love story tinged with large measures of comedy and sadness. It's also illuminated with superb performances by Nick Nolte and sight-for-sore-eyes Julie Christie, whose work was recognized this week with an Oscar nomination. The film finds writer-director Alan Rudolph returning to the smart romantic stylings that characterized such earlier films as Choose Me in 1984 and his debut feature Welcome to L.A. in 1976. As with those films, Afterglow interlaces the romantic meanderings of a cluster of people, following them as coincidence and choice govern the paths of their lives. Lucky “Fix-It” Mann (Nolte) and Phyllis (Christie) have been married for 24 years and even though the embers of their love still provide a comforting emotional warmth, a hurt they inflicted on each other years ago still casts a pall on their relationship. Lucky, a mobile handyman, has his wife's tacit approval to work on the personal plumbing of his female employers as well as that of their clogged sinks. Phyllis, a former B movie star, is haunted by a long-ago infidelity that had dire consequences on her marriage. Running in a narrative parallel to this story is the marriage of yuppie couple Jeffrey (Miller) and Marianne (Boyle). Corporate achiever Jeffrey is a cold-hearted and self-absorbed jerk who refuses to sleep with his silly and desperate wife. She, in turn, hires Lucky Mann to build a nursery in their sterile, ultra-moderne apartment. It's no surprise that, before long, the drilling commences. But then a comic twist has both Jeffrey and Marianne following their spouses to a hotel bar where they then meet and go off together. The film continues to play off the pain of the elder couple and the vacuousness of the younger in a way that's intriguingly neither wholly drama nor comedy. Sumptuously shot by Toyomichi Kurita, Afterglow is endlessly fascinating. Nolte is well-cast as the randy yet deeply sensitive older man, while Christie has a field day measuring out her rueful and sarcastic dialogue. Detracting from the goings-on are the one-dimensional performances of Boyle and Miller. As a couple, these two seem more likely to drown in the fierce emotional currents of the Manns' marriage. Miller especially shows none of the spark that made his Trainspotting appearance so electrifying and Boyle is reduced to airhead comic responses. The film itself tends to wander as it pokes around uneasily for its tone. Yet this is also, undeniably, the source of much of the film's charm. Afterglow bathes the screen with a warm amber light.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Alan Rudolph Films
The Secret Lives of Dentists
Alan Rudolph's new movie offers a well-performed portrait of decency that's much less sexy than its title.

Kimberley Jones, Sept. 5, 2003

Songwriter
With its script by Bud Shrake, Songwriter is one of the smartest movies ever made about the music business. Nelson stars as a songwriter and performer who gets into a bad publishing deal and enlists his friends and associates to help him sever the arrangement.

July 20, 2024

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
SXSW Film Review: The Greatest Hits
SXSW Film Review: The Greatest Hits
Love means never having to flip to the B side

March 16, 2024

SXSW Film Review: The Uninvited
SXSW Film Review: The Uninvited
A Hollywood garden party unearths certain truths

March 12, 2024

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Afterglow, Alan Rudolph, Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jonny Lee Miller

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle