Still Breathing

1998, PG-13, 109 min. Directed by James F. Robinson. Starring Brendan Fraser, Joanna Going, Celeste Holm, Ann Magnuson, Lou Rawls, Angus Macfadyen, Toby Huss, Paolo Seganti, Michael McKean, Junior Brown.

REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., May 1, 1998

Fletcher McBracken (Fraser) is a sweet, dreamy young man who suffers the same curse that his father and his father's father suffered. Each has been fated to envision the woman of his dreams, and then set off to find and win her. Fletcher spends his spare time cutting up magazine pictures and gluing a collage of features into some semblance of his destined love. The wall in his house is covered with them. It's a desultory pastime, though, one in which Fletcher only halfheartedly believes, so the collages are never quite right. But his grandmother, Ida (Holm) who was herself a chosen one, helps him persevere until one night his destiny is revealed in a vision and he can assemble truer pictures. Armed with his surreal collages, Fletcher sets off in search of his beloved, a quest which takes him to Los Angeles (by way of China, sort of). That his true love is a jaded, cynical beauty of the walking-wounded variety puts the whole crusade into jeopardy. Roz Willoughby (Going) has turned the tables on life as she has experienced it. Her vocation of conning men out of their money is not stealing, but a form of divine retribution. A perfect career choice, she can use her art expertise, not to mention her considerable charms, and never risk the thing she fears most -- emotional entanglement. Going is perfect as the tightly reined Roz. Her whole being is closed and off-limits, her face a lovely, impenetrable mask. Unfortunately, it stays that way. Going never softens, her eyes stay hard and guarded. The mask changes expression and speaks the right words, but it is a mask all the same and there is no reflection of romance in it. On the other hand, Fraser is positively rubber-faced. He confuses dreaminess with bewilderment, substituting half-witted grins for beatific contentment. There is too little chemistry between Roz and Fletcher and without more, the alchemy is evanescent. Only Celeste Holm fits the picture. Her Ida is aglow with a warm, eccentric magic -- the kind that smells good and fills you with an abrupt ease. The notion of Still Breathing is sweet and lovely, and possesses moments of breathtaking beauty -- Fletcher turning a projector on Roz, using her skin as a sensuous, reflective screen; a miniature cairn constructed in the palm of a hand; Ida playing an easy, affectionate Chopin on her tuba. Adding to the charm is a marvelous and evocative soundtrack that completes rather than overwhelms the images. The picture has the power to enchant, it just can't sustain the spell. Still Breathing is not without wonder, but when you're trying to weave magic, the incantation has to be exactly right. (See related story in this week's “Screens” section.)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 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 Brendan Fraser Films
Gimme Shelter
Vanessa Hudgeons stars in this bland exercise in very serious and meaningful young-adult drama.

Louis Black, Jan. 24, 2014

Escape From Planet Earth
In this 3-D animated movie, a famous astronaut from another planet becomes trapped on Earth – aka the Dark Planet. Interplanetary shenanigans ensue.

Louis Black, Feb. 22, 2013

More by Hollis Chacona
Luminarias

July 14, 2000

Dill Scallion

Oct. 8, 1999

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Still Breathing, James F. Robinson, Brendan Fraser, Joanna Going, Celeste Holm, Ann Magnuson, Lou Rawls, Angus Macfadyen, Toby Huss, Paolo Seganti, Michael McKean, Junior Brown

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

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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