'Walking and Talking' is all laughing and crying

September 27, 1996|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,SUN FILM CRITIC

"Walking and Talking" is much more about hurting and crying than it is about walking. But fortunately, it's also about laughing.

A clever examination of that painful existence known as the single life at crisis point, it's everything a small movie should be: shrewd, comic, sad and short.

It examines one of those painful dilemmas invisible to the world at large but exquisitely endured by those who must face it: that is, what happens to a single woman when her best friend, also a single woman, gets married? Here's what happens: Ouch! Damn! Ooooo! Arrrghh!

The movie watches clinically as over-intelligent, underachieving Amelia (Catherine Keener) is told by good buddy Laura (Anne Heche) that she is at last marrying live-in boyfriend Frank (Todd Field). Clearly, a lot of adjusting must be done: The easy, quick intimacy the two felt is now officially disrupted by the Other; Amelia must endure the lack of attention the coming nups will inevitably force upon her. She must confront her own essential aloneness in the universe. It won't be much fun.

But while such a concept seems a potential Titanic of maudlin self-pity, it never ruptures on craggy epiphanies or jagged bouts of self-loathing.

Writer-director Nicole Holofcener's great strength is her toughness: She sees Amelia whole, flaws and all, and she never yields on her sense of humor. While feeling Amelia's pain, she can laugh at her, and at them all.

Amelia is capable of the most staggering cruelty: She finally goes to bed with a video clerk (Kevin Corrigan) she calls "the ugly one." He finds out about her nickname for him and is understandably devastated. So it's difficult to build the case that she's some sort of morally purified higher being: And that honesty goes a long way toward cutting the cloying nature of most autobiographical texts.

Holofcener is too smart and tough-- about herself of all things -- for that.

'Walking and Talking'

Starring Catherine Keener and Anne Heche

Directed by Nicole Holofcener

Released by Miramax

Rated R (sexual content)

Sun score ***

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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