Monday, April 30, 2007


This is an unpredictable and interesting UK/Canadian flick with Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman about the often misunderstood condition of autism. As the movie opens, we find Englishman Alex (Rickman) stopping in a diner during a long drive to Western Canada. He has a secret, which we quickly learn. Vivienne, a kooky teenage girl, played by Emily Hampshire, ends up sharing his table and he reluctantly gives her a ride to Wawa to see her mother Linda, played by Weaver. Mom is autistic, a term that describes a spectrum of behavior from low- to high functioning. In film, RAINMAN contains the most recent well-known depiction to the mass audience.

When Rickman makes it to Wawa, he ends up getting involved in the life of the autistic mom and her neighbor Maggie, played by Carrie-Anne Moss. Weaver's portrayal is similar in acting discipline to Peter Sellers in BEING THERE, in the sense of keeping in character throughout, but with the leeway of a greater emotional range. The one emotion that Weaver's character lacks is empathy, and Rickman, whose stock in trade is sarcasm, makes every effort to break through and pull out empathy from her autistic world.

Semi-spoiler alert: a very appealing character leaves the story early on and it must have been a challenge to screenwriter Angela Pell to write a script that was compelling enough to hold the audience after that point. She succeeds. A tip of the snowman's top hat to director Marc Evans and cinematographer Steve Cosens for making a film as bright and beautiful to look at as a Canadian sunset.

Sigourney Weaver has created a character that will seem impossibly high-functioning to parents of children who have little or no speech but autism is many things. Her portrayal is accurate as far as the current wide-ranging definition is applied. I believed her.

Anything that Alan Rickman does has a quality seal on it. His retirement is secure thanks to the Harry Potter series but that work doesn't compare to his brilliance in many other favorites of mine, including GALAXY QUEST (also with Weaver), MICHAEL COLLINS (as Eamon De Valera), DIE HARD (the first installment of the holy trilogy), and DOGMA (not a fave but he's great in it). He's going to play Judge Turpin in the SWEENEY TODD movie directed by Tim Burton and that makes it a gotta go to for me.

Recommended with a money back guarantee.

SNOW CAKE is showing at the IFC Center Theater, located on the site of the old Waverly on Sixth Avenue. I get the IFC On Demand Channel on Cablevision for $4.95/month and this is where I saw it from my couch. They show first-run films as they are still running theatrically and also show older films. About once a month they run something I like and this month it was SNOW CAKE. You'll find out what a snow cake is in the last reel and it's a very nice scene.

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