Committed

The brains behind this comic romance have cast babe supreme Heather Graham as Joline, a New York wife who can't hold on to her husband, Carl (loopy Luke Wilson). Talk about suspending disbelief. Director-screenwriter Lisa Krueger, who made a striking 1996 feature debut with Manny and Lo, wants to probe the psyche of a wife who takes her marriage vows seriously. So when Joline wakes up to find a note from Carl saying he's high-tailed it to Texas to learn who he really is, she sets out to track the sucker down and teach him the meaning of being committed.

It's a one-joke premise that ultimately wears thin, but Krueger works some playful variations on a theme. The trail leads Joline to El Paso, where she finds Carl and spies on his activities from her car. She has help from her brother Jay, played with offbeat charm by Casey Affleck. But it's the presence of a new man, Neil (Goran Visnjic), that forces Joline to re-examine her more extreme views on commitment. What we have here is a comedy about a stalker, and the degree to which you'll find Joline funny or sympathetic depends on the actress who plays her.

Graham gives her all to this $3 million production, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Audiences know her best as Felicity Shagwell, the swinging foil to Mike Myers in last summer's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. But Graham, 30, has been honing her craft for more than a decade now. She was hilarious and heartbreaking as a junkie in 1989's Drugstore Cowboy, and she proved her acting mettle by bringing raw intensity and gravity to the part of Rollergirl in 1997's Boogie Nights. Recently, in movies as diverse as Lost in Space and Bowfinger, Graham has been used mostly as window dressing. Committed is a lopsided film of only modest virtues, but it reveals Graham's determination not to be marginalized as a walking centerfold. In taking the risk of alienating audiences by playing a woman on the verge, Graham is putting Hollywood on notice that she's not to be taken for granted.

From The Archives Issue 840: May 11, 2000