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Earthly Possessions


Earthly Possessions

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Based on a lesser-known novel by Anne Tyler, the quirky humanist behind The Accidental Tourist and Breathing Lessons, HBO's Earthly Possessions stars Susan Sarandon as a homely, doddering small-town housewife who goes on the lam with escaped convict Stephen Dorff. It's a role that's not dissimilar to co-star Geena Davis' in Thelma & Louise, and she's uniquely unsuited to play it. Forced to obscure her vibrant intelligence and sensuality, Sarandon turns in a false, mannered performance that improves only once the open road finally brings her out of her shell. A bland, pedestrian May-December romance, Earthly Possessions opens with a clumsily staged bank robbery in which Dorff takes Sarandon hostage and makes off with a measly $300 in cash. Their destination is a shelter for unwed mothers, where Dorff's pregnant, underage girlfriend awaits his rescue. Eventually, Sarandon sees through his tough veneer and proves to be a willing captive, striking up an unlikely affair as authorities close in on them. James Lapine (Impromptu) directs with little attention to the minor details of character and landscape that were presumably included in Tyler's novel—and which are essential to a good road movie. Without them, Earthly Possessions plays like a made-for-cable follow-up to Sarandon's White Palace, accomplishing the near-impossible task of stifling the actress' extraordinary appeal.