Seeing red over Generation X film's cliches

October 25, 1994|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

"People are as fragile as they are dominant. We are all at the mercy of free will," says Adam Anderson, the tortured Generation X-er who is the central character of the Michael Stern-John Brenkus film "Crimson Lights."

But such epiphanies don't come cheap; not in life and, in this case, not in the movies either.

An aspiring writer in name only, Adam lives indolently; cheesing shamelessly off Samantha, his book editor girlfriend who has had it with his lack of productivity.

Yet he is a hyper-achiever compared to his friend Bobby, a boozing, broken-down football player whose soul gave out with his knees.

When not drinking or trying clumsily to get back in the good graces of his ex-girlfriend, Bobby runs and re-runs tapes of his old games. So much for life after the game.

Emotionally estranged from his live-in and distanced from his bizarre family (including a father who will use Samantha for his own adulterous pleasures), Adam awaits an "angel to change his life."

In a bar, he finds Lyn Applegate, a beautiful nurse who awakens both his sexuality and his sense of guilt.

As Adam is tempted by the Applegate in some very un-Eden-like surroundings, the film becomes a study in fixation and confusion.

Who is Lyn Applegate? Is she real? What is she after? Will Adam succumb to her charms?

"Paradise Lost," say hello to "Fatal Attraction."

When it becomes known that this mysterious Florence Nightingale once was exposed to the AIDS virus by pricking herself on an infected needle, the complex circle of sexuality takes on a lethal dimension.

While this destroys Bobby, it shocks Adam's existential awareness; a contemporary Adam willing to take a measure of responsibility for his own fall from grace.

At times the film's imagery is heavy-handed and unnecessarily cryptic as in the mysterious old lady who must be bathed in red light every time she sits innocently in church. Some cinematic cliches might have been avoided (does everyone hear drums banging as they are about to fall off the monogamy wagon?), and the didacticism of Adam's final sermon on the virtues of AIDS testing seems to come out of nowhere.

Still, the film is suspenseful, well-acted and well-meant which, in these days of sociopathic movie-making, seems no small achievement.

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