September 22, 1995 in Seven

‘Unstrung’ Is A Bittersweet Gem Of A Movie

Chris Hewitt St. Paul Pioneer Press
 

In “Unstrung Heroes,” Steven Lidz is at the age when you’re still very much a kid but you’re starting to think like an adult. He understands more than his parents think he does, so it makes sense to ship him off to live with his crazy uncles when his mom gets sick.

Gently funny and quietly moving, in its own little way “Unstrung Heroes” is just about perfect. Director Diane Keaton selects just the right details to help us understand Steven’s family: his understanding mother (Andie MacDowell), his quirky dad (John Turturro) and his offbeat but beloved uncles (Maury Chaykin and Michael Richards, not straying far from Kramer on “Seinfeld”).

MacDowell wears a lot of roomy cardigans which, in the movies, can mean only two things: Either the actress was pregnant in real life or her character is doomed. In “Unstrung Heroes,” it means both, and Keaton beautifully sketches in the people who help Steven grow up.

The movie focuses on Steven and what he learns from his uncles: that sometimes the people who annoy you are the people who love you most and that you can’t just observe life, you have to participate in it. Nathan Watt, who plays Steven, is a gifted natural actor - it’s easy to relate to his character because the movie has such a strong, golden-hued sense of how we remember the things that happened to us as kids.

“You know how seashells hold the sound of the ocean?” his uncle asks him. “I believe balls hold the sounds of the children that bounce them.” That idea would be much too clever in another movie, but “Unstrung Heroes” is so accurate - like a scene in which Steven is writing an important paper and he runs out of room on the page - that it earns its sentimental touches.

That’s also because Keaton never pushes too hard or tries to make the characters do too much. The people in “Unstrung Heroes” want the best for each other and, as the movie works its way into your heart, you may be surprised to find that you want the best for them, too.

MEMO: 2 sidebars appeared with the story: “Unstrung Heroes” Location: Newport cinemas Credits: Directed by Diane Keaton, starring Nathan Watt, Andie MacDowell and John Turturro Running time: 1:33 Rating: PG

Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Unstrung Heroes:” Henry Sheehan/Orange County Register: Given that the movie is so intent on trivializing important issues, its virtues of craft may seem even more diminished. The cast generally gives good performances, the film has pace and looks good, and many of the more humorous passages, simply as gentle gags, are effective. But only a belief that paranoia has its adorable side makes the movie palatable. Jay Carr/The Boston Globe: When actors hit the target as unerringly as they do here, it’s also a sign the director did something right. Keaton has directed before, but “Unstrung Heroes,” with its small, detailed brush strokes and its eye for specifics, marks her behind-the-camera breakthrough.

2 sidebars appeared with the story: “Unstrung Heroes” Location: Newport cinemas Credits: Directed by Diane Keaton, starring Nathan Watt, Andie MacDowell and John Turturro Running time: 1:33 Rating: PG

Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Unstrung Heroes:” Henry Sheehan/Orange County Register: Given that the movie is so intent on trivializing important issues, its virtues of craft may seem even more diminished. The cast generally gives good performances, the film has pace and looks good, and many of the more humorous passages, simply as gentle gags, are effective. But only a belief that paranoia has its adorable side makes the movie palatable. Jay Carr/The Boston Globe: When actors hit the target as unerringly as they do here, it’s also a sign the director did something right. Keaton has directed before, but “Unstrung Heroes,” with its small, detailed brush strokes and its eye for specifics, marks her behind-the-camera breakthrough.


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