September 29, 1995 in Seven

‘Don Juan’ Well-Made But Few Take Notice

By The Spokesman-Review
 

It’s best never to expect too much from Hollywood. As a friend in the business keeps telling me, critics are the only ones who continually hold movies to the standards of art. And to think, people call us negative.

It is a struggle, though, to retain such standards in the face of an industry that considers James Belushi a star, Nicole Kidman a sex symbol, Tim Burton a visionary and pays Joe Eszterhas millions to write warmedover Shannon Tweed tinglers.

If something doesn’t blow up every five minutes, if some action star isn’t cross-dressing, if someone isn’t pulling off a drug deal, if some kid isn’t tapping into the Defense Department’s computer system if some shapely star isn’t simulating (choose one: sex, rape, orgasm, a striptease, all of the above), then the contemporary audience member is likely to fall asleep.

And that’s how it happens that charming little films such as “Don Juan De Marco” slip through town with barely a ripple of notice. Originally titled “Don Juan De Marco and the Playboy Centerfold,” this gentle drama is a perfect example of how a light touch is usually the best formula for romantic fantasy.

Writer-director Jeremy Leven began well by casting the trio of Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando and Faye Dunaway. But he went the further step by supporting them with a clear narrative flow, trusting that their talents would be more than enough to carry the story along.

Depp portrays a man who insists that he is a legendary Spanish lover, Brando is the ready-for-retirement therapist who treats him (and who learns from him) and Dunaway is Brando’s long-taken-for-granted wife. All three are virtually perfect.

Depp shows a remarkable facility both for accents and light comedy, and Dunaway is a woman surprised by her husband’s late blossoming. But it is Brando who, once again, shows us what good, effective screen acting is all about.

Weighing in at about 300 pounds these days, Brando even manages to act thin.

“Don Juan De Marco” *** Rated PG-13.

The Basketball Diaries **-1/2 Based on the ‘60s recollections of writer-musician Jim Carroll, this tawdry tale of writing, basketball, drug-using and street-hustling is no mood-heightener. Leonardo DiCaprio is the star, and he is halfright for the role - capable in the emotional scenes, looking out-of-place any time he steps on the basketball court. Diminutive (Marky) Mark Wahlberg is surprisingly good as his prison-bound buddy, although he, too, is hard to believe as a member of the “best Catholic highschool hoops team in New York.” As a story of youth wasted, this film has power. Overall, though, it has about as much staying power as a two-dollar high. Rated R.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Now available - “The Basketball Diaries” (Polygram), “Don Juan De Marco” (New Line), “Funny Bones” (Touchstone), “The Jerky Boys” (Touchstone), “New Jersey Drive” (MCA/ Universal), “Nemesis 2” (Imperial). Available on Tuesday - “Cinderella” (Disney), “French Kiss” (Fox).

This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Now available - “The Basketball Diaries” (Polygram), “Don Juan De Marco” (New Line), “Funny Bones” (Touchstone), “The Jerky Boys” (Touchstone), “New Jersey Drive” (MCA/ Universal), “Nemesis 2” (Imperial). Available on Tuesday - “Cinderella” (Disney), “French Kiss” (Fox).


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email