few exceptions, the work of Sam Shepard has proven difficult to
adapt to the screen, and Simpatico, based on Shepard's 1994 play,
is no different. Adapted by the
British stage director Matthew Warcus and co-screenwriter
David Nicholls, it manages to involve a great many talented
people, both in front of and behind the camera, as it sinks, inexorably
but inevitably, off the screen.
oddly disheveled Vinnie (Nick Nolte) places an emergency phone
call to old friend Carter (Jeff Bridges), the wealthy proprietor of a
thoroughbred horse-breeding ranch in Kentucky, and Carter drops
everything in order to rush out to
California and help him. Once there, Vinnie pulls a fast
one on Carter, strands him there, and rockets by plane to Kentucky,
carrying a box full of
incriminating evidence involving a scandal that took place twenty years before.
Over an hour of screen time elapses before we even begin to get any sort of
clear picture as to what is happening and why the characters are
behaving the way they do.
filmmakers' deliberate withholding of information on the characters' background
and motives, which they then piece out to us a little bit at a
time, does not draw us further into the action, in fact, does quite the
opposite: after a while, we begin to have less and less of a reason to
even continue watching these
people. Some of the action (Carter's abrupt change in character, for example) is
never entirely explained, while other parts of the film's plot
(why the twenty-year gap in events?) donít even make any sense.
Nolte and Jeff Bridges try, but even they can't make anything out of ciphers.
Sharon Stone, as the girl both men loved in their youth and, now, has become a
recluse in Carter's big Kentucky home, isn't even brought on-screen until well into the picture's second hour. When she
does appear, she does some interesting work, but, in one of the most egregious
errors I've seen in any recent
film, her most important scene, when her character
suddenly moves from lassitude to moral outrage, is wrecked by botched
editing and unnecessary visual
the other hand, Albert Finney, playing a former racing commissioner, movingly
conveys the look and feel of someone who's had to live for years with the weight
of past indiscretions inside him. The biggest surprise in Simpatico turns
out to be Catherine Keener, seen earlier this year as the sublimely perverse
Maxine ("The puppet guy asked me out. Isn't that pathetic?") in Being
John Malkovich. Here, she plays a completely different character, a
genuinely honest and caring woman, and she does so with
absolute, unerring precision, believability, and craft.
Just for your information: Simpatico is the name of a horse.