Judge Neal Masri was dismayed to find that this movie features absolutely no monkeys.
Does the future lie in the palm of your hand?
It's kind of like The Big Chill…with ghosts!
Facts of the Case
Three couples at a dinner party are told by a psychic that one of them will be broken up within a year. As tensions mount in their respective relationships, a pair of well-meaning ghosts attempts to intervene and prevent the prediction from happening.
The Simian Line takes place in Wehauken, New Jersey, a bedroom community across the river from Manhattan. The skyline of the city beckons to the characters throughout the film. Either from across the street or through windows, Manhattan looms as if a constant reminder of a more satisfying life just beyond reach. A tree-lined street of Victorian homes facing the city provides the backdrop for a varied group of players.
The film centers around three couples. Katherine (Lynn Redgrave, Gods and Monsters) and Rick (Harry Connick Jr., Hope Floats) are a May/December romance. Katherine rents her upstairs apartment to young twentysomething couple, Marta (Monica Keena, Freddie Vs. Jason) and Billy (Dylan Bruno, The Anarchist Cookbook). The third pair is yuppie neighbors Sandra (Cindy Crawford, Fair Game) and Paul (Jamey Sheridan, The Stand). All three couples are attending a dinner party in the opening scenes in which Arnita (Tyne Daly, Cagney & Lacey), a kooky psychic, informs them that one of the pairs will break up by the end of the year.
There is also a fourth couple—Edward (William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Mae (Samantha Mathis, American Psycho). They are, I kid you not, ghosts of a deceased southern gentleman and a free spirited 1920s flapper living in Katherine's house.
Each couple faces challenges that will try their relationships. The ghosts, in concert with Arnita, attempt to shore up the lives and relationships of all of the couples in order to keep the prediction from coming to pass. Over the course of the film, there is great deal of palm reading ("the Simian Line" is the name of a rare palm feature of one of the characters) and dire predictions for our couples.
The large cast seems to become unwieldy for the director as the film moves on. The stories move forward in fits and starts. The viewer constantly has the feeling that they're either getting too much or too little information. Much of the dialogue appears to be ad-libbed. Some scenes go on a bit too long without enough interesting dialogue to support them. The SimianLine would have benefited from some more disciplined writing and editing.
Performances are a mixed bag. The usually fantastic William Hurt is saddled with an unfortunate Foghorn Leghorn-style southern accent that becomes grating after about five minutes. Cindy Crawford has obviously taken a few acting lessons since the disastrous Fair Game and is actually pretty good. The rest of the cast ranges from good to adequate. Unfortunately, they're not given quite enough to work with in this screenplay.
New Years Eve eventually rolls around and the end of the year is imminent. Will love conquer all? Will all of our couples stay together? The unfortunate truth is that you probably won't care. The ending comes about and resolutions of all of the preceding issues happen in a very pat and rushed fashion. How can a film seem both too long and too short at the same time?
Video is not very satisfying. Some shots of the sun reflecting off of the river show significant compression issues. There is also a great deal ofsoftness in the fullscreen image. This softness may very well be an artistic decision rather than a video issue, but I found it to be a bit annoying. Audio is typical of lower budget, dialogue-driven films. The front focused mix uses surrounds to punctuate music and for a few ambient sound effects.
The Simian Line is not a horrible movie, but it is poorly executed. I simply could not bring myself to care about these characters or their problems. It plays like the first draft of a story that could eventually turn out to be interesting. A tighter script and better editing might have saved this film. As it is, I can see how it never found an audience.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
On the plus side, you do get a glimpse of Cindy Crawford naked in a bubble bath.
Poor editing choices and an attempt to trace too many stories at once lead to a mess of a movie. There's an entertaining story in here somewhere, it just can't seem to find its way out.
Miss Cleo foresees…a guilty verdict.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Ardustry Home Entertainment
• Theatrical Trailer
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