Afterglow

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Afterglow

Over the last 20 years, Alan Rudolph has built an artistically fruitful if commercially marginal career out of smart, abstract romantic comedy-dramas that walk a fine line between lush, swooningly romantic brilliance and stilted, cloying pretension. His Afterglow stars Nick Nolte and Julie Christie as a blue-collar husband and wife who have separate affairs with a much younger couple: cold, distant businessman Jonny Lee Miller and Lara Flynn Boyle, a horny, unhappy homemaker whose life receives a much-needed boost from the amorous advances of Nolte's handyman womanizer. Afterglow gets off to a weak start—and it's occasionally hampered by stilted dialogue and cutesy conceits; Nolte's character is named Lucky Mann—but it is nevertheless a strong, frequently touching film that benefits from a pair of brilliant performances by Nolte and Christie. Christie is in many respects the ideal Rudolph heroine: gorgeous, radiant, otherworldly. She provides a poignant and heartbreakingly human center to Rudolph's beautifully realized universe of damaged souls and missed connections. It's a testament to Nolte's performance that he more than holds his own against Christie, giving his blue-collar lothario a blustery, earnest charm that complements Christie's aloof, depressed beauty. Although flawed and somewhat sluggishly paced, Afterglow ranks alongside the underrated Equinox and 1994's Mrs. Parker And The Vicious Circle as some of Rudolph's best '90s work.

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