Julie Christie is the main reason to see “Afterglow.”
She hasn’t been in many recent movies but, 35 years after her career began, she’s a revelation all over again. Still luminously beautiful, Christie has a new, playful quality she’s never used in any of her movies. Much of her “Afterglow” dialogue is compellingly weird (her character is given to musing about how she likes the sound of tires because they remind her of the movies), and Christie speaks it in a voice that is one-third of the way toward singing.
Words are just about the only fun this character has. A washed-up actress who was probably never very good, she’s married to a Mr. Fix-it (Nick Nolte) who is more likely to feel up his clients than paper their walls. One of the clients (Lara Flynn Boyle) is unhappily married to an arrogant junior executive (Jonny Lee Miller, Sickboy from “Trainspotting”) who completes the circle by flirting with Christie.
Frankly, I couldn’t care less about any of that stuff. If Nolte’s randy handyman isn’t the most cliched character in the book, then Boyle’s bored, ignored housewife is. And writer/director Alan Rudolph lets Boyle go way too far with the screechy stuff - you could torture prisoners by making them listen to her.
There’s a well-timed, farcical meeting among the four characters, but “Afterglow” goes slack because Rudolph isn’t sure what he wants these people to learn from each other.
Some marriages are worth saving, and some aren’t - that seems to be the intended message of “Afterglow.” But the real message is that if you put good words in Julie Christie’s mouth, she can make them shine like gold.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Afterglow” Location: Lincoln Heights Cinema Art Credits: Directed by Alan Rudolph, starring Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jonny Lee Miller Running time: 1:53 Rating: R
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