Feeling Minnesota [1996]

In his debut effort, director/writer Steven Baigleman put together an interesting premise and collected a talented cast to execute it. Unfortunately, he never sets the tone, so we are caught between a wildly black comedy and an emotionally brutal drama. A firmer footing in either genre would have better defined our reactions to it. Keanu Reeves plays Jjaks, a man so badly trod upon by fate that his very name is the result of a typo. He arrives back at his mother's house in a lower working-class Minnesota neighborhood to witness the marriage of his older brother (Vincent D'Onofrio) to an obviously reluctant bride (Cameron Diaz). By the time Jjaks is on his way, he's stolen a car, a dog, and his brother's wife. You have to give Baigleman credit for serving up intriguing characters. Unfortunately, he spins the story in circles instead of moving it along. Reeves and Diaz attempt to leave Minnesota, but never quite make it. Reeves repeatedly returns to a boyhood home he hates, always stumbling into his brother's angry clutches. What does work are the performances. Diaz is both sad and strong as the tough cookie who happens to be the smartest character in the movie. D'Onofrio's stupid nastiness is offset by his crushing love for her and an uncontrollable jealousy of Jjaks. Most surprising is Reeves, who makes us feel for his angry, unhappy loser by revealing flashes of decency under a toughened exterior. --Rochelle O'Gorman

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