Showtime has first-rate portraits of five women

Today's TV

March 10, 2001

An air of mystery, melancholy and muted hope pervades "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" (8 p.m.-10 p.m. tomorrow, Showtime), first-time writer-director Rodrigo Garcia's carefully textured mini-portraits of women living the drama that is everyday life.

The film is told as a series of five vaguely interconnected stories, with Mexican actress Elpidia Carrillo providing the common thread. Glenn Close is Elaine Keener, an M.D. who seems preoccupied with ... something. Close provides a powerful, nearly wordless performance that sets the bar high for the rest of the cast.

Remarkably, nearly everyone reaches it. In the most powerful portrait, Cameron Diaz is a blind woman who proves a lot more resilient than her detective sister (Amy Brenneman).

Also in the cast is Holly Hunter as a bank manager facing an unplanned pregnancy and an unexpected romance (in that order), Kathy Baker as a harried single mother whose romantic yearnings are kindled by a new neighbor, and Calista Flockhart as a Tarot card reader tending to her dying companion (Valeria Golino).

Garcia directs with an assuredness that belies his first-time status; he's satisfied to let his cast members exercise their acting muscles absent cinematic histrionics. And if his screenplay is sometimes too mannered, the sincerity of his vision and the strength of the performances more than carry the film.- Chris Kaltenbach

At a glance

"Dangerous Minds" (9 p.m.-11 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) - Michelle Pfeiffer is an ex-Marine going into battle on the toughest terrain she's ever seen - a high school filled with cynical inner-city kids - with no weapons but her wits and a ferocious dedication to teaching. ABC.

"The District" (10 p.m.-11 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) - Temple and McGregor stake out a corner hoping to stop drug smuggling but instead are surprised to find that the goods are young Vietnamese women. Mannion suspects a local restaurant owner of conducting a sex slave business. CBS.

Cable

"I Dreamed of Africa" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., HBO) - This scenically rich film from last year is based on the true story of an Italian woman who found a new life on a remote farm in Africa and became an advocate for animal rights. Kim Basinger and Vincent Perez star.

"Snow Day" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., Showtime) - In this 1999 comedy, a late-season storm brings havoc in upstate New York, partly in the person of crazed plow-driver Chris Elliott. With Chevy Chase and Jean Smart.

"Born Yesterday" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., TCM) - A junk dealer (Broderick Crawford) hires a journalist (William Holden) to tutor his dim-witted mistress (Judy Holliday). A classic by writer Garson Kanin and director George Cukor.

"Michael" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., TNT) - Two tabloid reporters and an "angel expert" investigate the claims of a rural Iowa woman who says she shares her home with an angel (John Travolta). She's right - but he's definitely not what they expected.

"Midsomer Murders" (9 p.m.-10 p.m., A&E) - A new installment, "Death of a Stranger," involves a homeless man whose body no one can identify. He's found in a fox-hunting area where, it's said, hounds once went berserk and started killing people. Daniel Casey and John Nettles star.

Compiled from wire reports by Sarah Kickler Kelber

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