No Looking Back [1998]

Director: Ed Burns
Stars: Lauren Holly, Ed Burns, Jon Bon Jovi, Connie Britton, Blythe Danner
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 96 minutes

The third film in writer-director-actor Edward Burns's "Long Island Trilogy" is in some ways the slightest of the three, and that's a blessing and a curse. By keeping things spare, Burns is able to focus on the simple, honest humanity of his story, which centers on the emotional dilemma of Claudia (Lauren Holly), a small-town waitress whose engagement to blue-collar Michael (Jon Bon Jovi) is challenged when old flame Charlie (Burns) returns after an extended absence. Their shared history includes an abortion that left Claudia feeling abandoned and resentful, and for good reason, given Charlie's reputation for self-involved aloofness. As in his previous films, Burns demonstrates a subtle hand with actors and a keen awareness of life's authentic rhythm; this movie will strongly affect anyone who can relate to Claudia's need to find herself, independent of her tenuous relationships. The performances are uniformly superb: Holly expresses the confusion and seeking quality of her character; Burns makes Charlie both charming and bluntly self-serving; and Bon Jovi shows strong potential beyond his rock-star handsomeness. Indeed, the film's only weakness is that it's stretched too thin to be truly substantial, and Burns relies far too heavily on a soundtrack (with heavy doses of Bruce Springsteen and Sheryl Crow) that too often substitutes for dialogue. It's as if Burns didn't trust his own material; he needn't have been so insecure. --Jeff Shannon

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