starring Albert Brooks, Leelee Sobieski, John Goodman, Michael McKean
screenplay by Jill Franklyn
directed by Christine Lahti
by Walter Chaw Something's fatally off about My First Mister, veteran character actor Christine Lahti's feature-length directorial debut. Awkward and atonal, it appears to be some strange cross between a reverse-gendered Harold and Maude and a mainstream Ghost World, and despite its desperation to appear so, it's neither as intelligent nor edgy as either. Jill Franklyn's screenplay (her first produced) just doesn't work. It's hollow to the ear and disagreeable to the taste, only ringing true occasionally through the Herculean intervention of Albert Brooks, here in his most restrained and affecting performance since Broadcast News. That noise you hear when Leelee Sobieski's weary (and wearying) voiceover confides, "My clothes are not all black. Some of them are blue. Sometimes I wear them together so I look like a bruise," is an audience's worth of eyeballs rolling skyward. The problems Franklyn's script presents to the rest of the cast, however, particularly the Helen Hunt-ishly smug (and similarly limited) Sobieski and Carol Kane as another gnomish manic eccentric, are insurmountable. They're crushed beneath the weight of convenience, contrivance, Lahti's unfortunate impulse towards the cutesy, and a score that is as insulting and invasive as any to be found in a Chris Columbus film or from the recently-flaccid baton of the once-great John Williams.