Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sincerely, Violet

(Mort Ransen, 1987)
It's remarkable how just a little bit of judiciously applied intelligence can enliven, if not quite redeem, the tiresome soap cliches of Julian Roffman's "Shades of Love" franchise. As usual, this one has a harried career woman (Patricia Phillips) falling for some blow-dried guy even more affluent than she is (Simon MacCorkindale). The wrinkle this time is that, in pursuit of documents for her research project, Phillips first breaks into the MacCorkindale residence in the middle of the night, then poses as a street-smart mental patient for his benefit. Ransen plays the break-in for amiable farce, the double-identity plot for Freudian musings re the truth of social performance, and both turn out to be exactly the right decisions, embracing and heightening the unreality of the scenario while hitting actual emotional resonances that carry you through the predictable romantic narrative that ensues. Ransen's atypical outbursts of humour - check out the interactions with the secretary, or the eavesdropping-dude-in-the-cafeteria routine - give the project such a lift that you don't even mind the remarkably dubious counsel of Phillips' psychotherapist buddy. And when the big musical numbers kick in, he focuses in on the faces of his subjects instead of collapsing into the usual vaseline-smeared montage - a small mercy, maybe, but a telling and generous one.

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