Combustible Celluloid
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With: Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, Reese Witherspoon, Stockard Channing, James Garner, Giancarlo Esposito, Liev Schreiber, M. Emmet Walsh
Written by: Robert Benton, Richard Russo
Directed by: Robert Benton
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sexuality
Running Time: 94
Date: 03/06/1998

Twilight (1998)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Magic Hour

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This film by Academy Award winning writer and director Robert Benton could be the first great movie of 1998. It makes a wonderful companion piece to his 1977 The Late Show, a well-balanced mix of detective movie, comedy and drama. The two movies are similar in that they are interested in characters that have already been around the block and are drifting through their final days. Benton's characters try not to think too hard about where they are -- and try not to think about not thinking -- but they fail at both.

In Twilight, Paul Newman plays Harry Ross, a retired private eye who once located the missing daughter of a pair of aging movie stars (played by Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman) and now lives with them, doing odd jobs. Hackman gives Newman a simple errand that inadvertently opens up a 20-year-old murder case.

The movie has a hazy, sleepy, and sad look that reminded me (favorably) of Chinatown, complimented by an excellent score by Elmer Bernstein. But Twilight is also a comedy, and a serious character study. Benton is a master of combining and sustaining these elements, and of directing actors. The excellent cast, all in top form, also includes: Reese Witherspoon, Stockard Channing, James Garner, Giancarlo Esposito, and Liev Schreiber. Brilliant. Co-writer Richard Russo wrote the novel Nobody's Fool and worked on the screenplay for Benton's 1994 film of the same name.

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