'Wildflower' displays Diane Keaton's blossoming talent as a director

TELEVISION REVIEW

December 03, 1991|By Chicago Tribune

What kind of director is actress Diane Keaton?

Very good, to judge by her directorial film debut in a grim but ultimately uplifting movie called "Wildflower," premiering on the Lifetime cable network at 9 tonight.

Having previously directed a CBS afternoon special, a couple of TV series episodes and a documentary titled "Heaven," Ms. Keaton is a little arty behind the ears, indulging in such showboating as slow motion and weird camera angles. But she displays an obviously effective way with actors, especially the young ones upon whose shoulders the film rests.

The most amazing performance is turned in by Patricia Arquette as Alice, a teen who, suffering from epilepsy and hard of hearing, has been kept in a shed by her father who thinks she is crazy.

Soiled and almost savage, she is discovered by another young girl, Ellie (Reese Witherspoon), who, with her brother Sammy (William McNamara), teaches Alice to read and brings her into the world from which she had been locked away.

Ms. Arquette, playing a role similar to that played by sister Roseanne in 1982's "Johnny Belinda," is radiant and real. The other two kids are as solid a pair of young actors as you'll find. Beau Bridges is great as Ellie's and Sammy's gruff-but-understanding dad. And Susan Blakely, almost unrecognizable under soot, is a revelation as Alice's bruised and beaten mother.

*

A documentary such as "Play by Play: A History of Sports Television," a two-part HBO special (Part 1 airs at 10 tonight, Part 2 on m. Dec. 10) is long overdue.

So long overdue that for all its glorious, goose bump-enducing images of athletic heroics, there is something mushy about it -- like a stew left simmering too long.

TV and sports have become so intertwined as to make one believe they came into being at the same time. Until there was TV, there was only the black and white of newspaper box scores, the crackle ofradio voices.

Without TV, there would be no Olympic Games mania, no crowded bars on Monday nights and, to a more unfortunate extent, no spurious made-for-TV events like "Superstars."

That's all in this show, along with such famous televised images as Namath's Super Bowl triumph, Beamon's historic leap, Havlicek stealing the ball and Jordan soaring, Ali dancing and Maris' smash. If you need further explanation of any of these matters -- Havlicek stealing what ball? -- you're not enough of a sports nut for this show.

Doing the hosting chores is a gallery of sportscasters: Bob Costas, Curt Gowdy, Jim Lampley, Jim McKay, Brent Musburger and Pat Summerall. There are interviews with many more, including Lindsey Nelson, Red Barber and, perhaps most interestingly because he is not called on for current comment and is seen only in clips, Howard Cosell.

Both shows are fairly similar, with Part 1 heavy on history and Part 2 concentrating on technology, foul-ups and the men and women behind the mikes.

There are many repeated images but also a fascinating section on the gizmos and gadgets that not only brought the games more powerfully into our homes but had a profound impact on the ways other areas of TV, such as news, were delivered.

Together, with hokey intros, the two parts show us the great leaps sports TV has taken.

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