Simpatico

In Simpatico, a boring adaptation of a lesser-known Sam Shepard play, Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte star as doppelgangers haunted by an incriminating secret in their past. Once inseparable, their corrupt dealings caused a rift in their friendship which sent them down opposite paths, with Bridges a nouveau riche dealer selling a Triple Crown winner in Kentucky and Nolte a ragged drunk living in squalor in small-town California. Their fortunes reverse when Nolte decides to play his trump card and bribe Bridges with evidence of a fixed horse race that resulted in a big payoff, yet ruined the lives of a corrupt racing commissioner (Albert Finney) and their mutual object of affection, played as an adult by Sharon Stone. Simpatico shakes its theatrical roots by using stylized flashbacks to reveal the characters' transgressions, but these quick snippets take so long to accumulate into anything substantial that there's no real urgency to advance the present-day story. Shepard's play provides first-time director Matthew Warchus with a fascinating theme about how people choose—or, in the three principals' case, don't choose—to reconcile with their pasts, but he holds back too much information to fully explore it. Only the melancholy Finney, as a lonely but serene old man with a helpless addiction to the track, and Catherine Keener, in a bittersweet performance as a checkout clerk with dreams of the Derby, survive the botch unscathed.

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