Imaginary Crimes [1994]

Children are so ill prepared to deal with the shortcomings of their parents that, when they inevitably discover that mom and dad have feet of clay, they tend to overreact. That's part of the lesson in this film, based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Sheila Ballantyne. Harvey Keitel is a 1950s widower with two daughters, played by Fairuza Balk and Elisabeth Moss. A guy with lots of dreams, a convincing line of patter, and very little to back up either, he hustles to keep his family together, doing what he feels is the best he can to keep food on the table on clothes on their backs. But his loneliness, his drinking--and, ultimately, his inability to be a square dealer with the business associates he's cheating--contribute to his older daughter's disillusionment. Strong performances by Keitel, who is surprisingly touching, and Balk, who captures the mood-swing roller coaster of adolescence, complicated by being forced to grow up before her time. --Marshall Fine

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