**½/**** Image B Sound B Extras B
starring Robin Tunney, Tim Blake Nelson, Brad Hunt, Liz Phair
written and directed by Finn Taylor
by Walter Chaw A marked improvement over his sporadically interesting but ultimately flat Dream with the Fishes, indie wunderkind Finn Taylor's Cherish is one half a fantastic film tied to one half a terrible film. It leaves plot threads hanging, has a great deal of uncertain character motivation, and transforms into a Tom Tykwer film near the end for no good reason. But Cherish is also home to what is easily Robin Tunney's best performance to date, another smart and quirky turn by Tim Blake Nelson, a disabled person in a heroic and human role, and a premise that is sharp, intriguing, and original. That it features two Hall & Oates songs on the soundtrack only helps its cause.
A.M. Gold fanatic Zoe (Tunney) has a few too many and gets into her car, where she's promptly carjacked and forced to cause an accident. Placed under house arrest whilst awaiting trial with an electronic anklet her jailor, Zoe befriends wheelchair-bound downstairs-neighbour Max (Ricardo Gil) and her anklet's technician Daly (Nelson). Nora Dunn appears in a nice cameo as Zoe's no-nonsense attorney while Brad Hunt contributes a terrible cameo as the carjacker who makes a quick escape after the wreck. Leaving no impression whatsoever is riot grrrl Liz Phair in the small role of Zoe's bitchy ex-boss.
The thriller elements of Cherish make no sense and have no rhythm, setting off the picture's genuinely intriguing premise and performances with just enough regularity to set teeth on edge. It is a frustrating film in the way of many parallel narratives in which one storyline clearly elevates itself over the other, rendering the unavoidable return of the inferior to centre stage an event to be dreaded. Taylor's strengths are clearly that of a scenarist, of exploring voyeurism, of compiling effective soundtracks, and of culling excellent performances from largely-unproven actors (David Arquette in Dream with the Fishes; Tunney here)--he is most certainly not a thriller director, and his dedication to being one has hurt both of his films to some degree. The divide between the true and the false in Cherish is so clean that it's something of a small wonder that midway through production the decision wasn't made to minimize the bad (which is very bad) in favour of the very good.
The sprung romantic elements of Cherish are so literally betrayed by its thriller elements that disabled Max, vital and forceful in the former, is mortally wounded by the latter, his ultimate fate left maddeningly (and sloppily) to our imagination. Tunney's character, so sensible and resourceful, is forced by the film's attempts at suspense (particularly at the conclusion) to engage in a series of contortions illogical and grotesque that undermine her performance. And Nelson's goofy foil's final act of sacrifice comes off as his one out-of-character moment. The picture earns a strong recommendation and a strong condemnation: it is good enough when it's good to be worthwhile, and exasperating enough in its missteps to warrant considerable pause. At the end of the day, with the benefit of time's AVID, I suspect I'll grow fonder of Cherish. That is, so long as I never see it again. Originally published: June 7, 2002.
by Bill Chambers Warm and wonderful, weird and wild, Cherish quickly earned a place among my more treasured DVDs. New Line Home Video releases the Fine Line production on disc; unfortunately, one of the year's coolest films has fallen victim to an ultra-rare unnoteworthy transfer from New Line. Presented in widescreen and fullscreen on the same side of a dual-layer DVD, the film's image lacks depth here--there's a muted, Seventies quality to Barry Stone's cinematography that no doubt looked smashing on the big screen and probably would've been marginally improved at home by dispensing with the fullscreen version (thus lessening the compromise of compression), which lops a significant amount of visual information from the right side of the frame (while restoring a negligible amount to the bottom--in one shot literally a pinkie toe). But more heartbreaking is the included 2.0 stereo mix: it has nice range and all, but the bonus theatrical trailer for Cherish is in 5.1 Dolby Digital!
Stone, "The Streets of San Francisco"-obsessed director Finn Taylor, and demi-goddess Robin Tunney join forces for a feature-length commentary track that's bubbly and a little informative. Cherish had more camera set-ups than The Matrix Reloaded, says Taylor, and Tunney is both thankful and irritated that a masturbation sequence was cut out. The deleted scenes section does not show us this inconceivable nugget, though one of its two omissions is an alternate ending that frankly blows. (At least it does divulge what became of Max, the disabled tenant.) A 19-minute behind-the-scenes featurette rounds out the disc; therein, the extremely articulate Tim Blake Nelson sums up the atmosphere on set as "a perpetual feeling of rehearsal," and Taylor expresses awe for the dedication of his crew. It's a love-in, in other words, but Alvin Sargent is quoted and Tunney demonstrates real insight into her character, so it's respectable. Originally published: January 10, 2003.