1998, R, 97 min. Directed by Bob Gosse. Starring Henry Thomas, Robin Tunney, Michael Parks, Stephen Lang.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., April 3, 1998
Call it “grunge cinema,” “scuzz cinema,” “Gun Crazy cinema,” whatever you like: Two lonely, white-trash adolescents fall in love, shoot guns, commit crimes, and go on the lam, everything ultimately ending in tragedy. The territory charted in Niagara, Niagara is a familiar one, except that one of the characters has Tourette's syndrome. While the affliction makes the relationship between Seth and Marcie all the more doomed -- you know from the start that her violent, unpredictable outbursts will be their undoing -- it's more gimmicky than psychologically meaningful, although Tunney does well in conveying her character's matter-of-fact acceptance of her illness. (Indeed, Tunney's performance won the best actress award at last year's Venice Film Festival.) Meeting by chance while shoplifting, the couple hit the road in a beat-up station wagon, with frequent stops at liquor stores and pharmacies, as they attempt to pass off forged prescriptions for medicine that will control Marcie's increasingly erratic behavior. (A prolonged detour at a dilapidated shack owned by the grizzly, half-out-of-his-mind Parks upsets the movie's road-trip rhythm.) The love story in Niagara, Niagara is premised on a notion that Seth and Marcie belong together because they're both freaks in a way, unable to find anyone else. Whether that's a romantic sentiment or a cynical observation, of course, depends on your perspective. Regardless, you never feel the urgency of this union of lost souls; their meeting is more happenstance than fateful. With some irony, the film's title (one of the traits of Tourette's syndrome is the repetition of words) refers to the traditional American destination of young lovers, a spectacular place for honeymooners with their whole lives ahead of them. Of course, the Falls mark a coda for the pair here, rather than a beginning. In the end, the whole thing seems pointless because the excursion on which the movie seeks to take you is an unfulfilling one, a journey that hits a dead end even before it starts.