Richard Gere wrecked by grating self-pity in adolescent 'Intersection'

January 21, 1994|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Is it just me, or do you suspect these are not the times for an elegantly mummified, slickly vulgar movie that presents a wealthy, flamboyantly successful man, torn between his beautiful wife and beautiful mistress, as a victim?

What utterly ruins "Intersection" is a strain of adolescent self-pity and sentimentalization delivered in a tone of shrieking hysteria, built around Richard Gere at his most irritatingly sensitive. He makes Richard Simmons look like Schwarzenegger!

How this boy suffers! His Byronic wind-swept locks signify the tumult in his inner life, his endless thousand-yard stares to the horizon suggest his profound disenchantment, his Hamlet-like lip twitches represent the torment that informs his every moment. He's just learned a cosmic lesson: Life isn't a bowl of cherries. Once, 13 years ago, his wife wouldn't cuddle him after they made love. Richard, thank you for sharing.

Gere plays a successful, connected (through that same wife) architect in movie-picturesque Vancouver -- why are movies like this never set in Columbus or Texarkana? -- who, at 42, begins to drift away from his beautiful but career-obsessed spouse (Sharon Stone) and begins an affair with a more touchy-feely earth-goddess type in Lolita Davidovich. The film actually transpires in four seconds of real time as his Mercedes 450 SL goes into a potential death-slide on a country road and he has an hour's worth of memories. He should have obeyed the traffic signs: I'm sure there was one that warned: "Danger: Flashbacks Ahead."

In fact, the movie is such a flashback-o-rama that it seems to come unstuck in time; sometimes you're in flashbacks inside of flashbacks, as when a character remembers remembering. In one absurd moment, it actually seems that a clock is remembering the time it got bought!

But the clock is a perfect example of the slick vulgarity that Mark Rydell brings to his direction and that turns every emotion synthetic. It's some kind of elegant antique that resembles a pinball machine, depositing a ball bearing on a track every 60 seconds, the ball bearing swerving this way and that as it runs its course. See, those are the twists and turns in Gere's life. Other dreary items from the syllabus of Symbolism 101 include the de rigueur shattered mirror as the married couple breaks up, and the little girl angel who gives Gere the strength to finally make a decision.

It doesn't help that Gere's character is imagined in such narcissistic and uncritical terms. Not only is his adultery seen as a symptom of his depression, but it's made clear that it's really not his fault; it's his unfeeling wife's. He's just the victim. On top of all that, he's politically correct, an architect for . . . the Indians! I love it. The movie's most excruciating moment comes when he delivers a little speech as his new museum housing native art is opened. Amid a mob of creamy white guys in tuxedos and their expensive wives with hair that looks like melted gold, he talks about how close to nature the Indians were! Did Tom Wolfe write this as satire?

In its climax, "Intersection" finally delivers on the utter adolescence of its conception. It contrives, through elaborate mechanical manipulations, to put Gere in a situation where both women are permitted to love him. See, that's what sensitive guys need most of all: uncritical adoration. He betrays his wife, puts his daughter through hell and tortures his mistress, but everybody still likes him. It's a happy ending.

"Intersection"

Starring Richard Gere, Sharon Stone and Lolita Davidovich

Directed by Mark Rydell

Released by Paramount

Rated R

**

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