Genre: Comedy, Crime, Mystery
Alan Rudolph's "screwball film noir" (his definition) is a bit like Choose Me cast with buffoons--a handsome, smoothly directed, shaggy-dog mystery populated by thoroughly offbeat characters. Emily Watson plays malaprop-spewing, gum-chewing Trixie Zurbo, a security guard who wants to be a private detective. It's kind of like Gracie Allen trying to play Lauren Bacall in a Bogey film with a babble of mangled clich├ęs and screwy punch lines. A shaggy, small-time thug wannabe (Dermot Mulroney) drags her into a mystery involving a smarmy, double-talking senator (Nick Nolte), a boozy past-her-prime showgirl (Lesley Anne Warren), and a blackmail scheme that ends up in murder. As a mystery it's less hard-boiled than over easy, but the performers go to town with the material. Nolte brilliantly rants an incoherent brand of political doublespeak, and Nathan Lane is patter perfect as a small- time entertainer delivering one-liners with a weary, wounded smile. At almost two hours it's a long road with meanders and detours, offering little payoff beyond the time spent with Rudolph's endearing out-of-time characters. This may prove mystifying and insubstantial to viewers who like a little more shape to their stories, but fans of Rudolph's quirky brand of filmmaking will find it well worth the trip. --Sean Axmaker

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