Denise Calls Up

on March 29, 1996 by Kim Williamson
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A film that's literally talking heads scene after scene of people engaging in phone conversations comes with a built-in uh-oh factor, but "Denise Calls Up" is, if limited, a surprising success. The phonecord-tangled storyline pairs off three twosomes: an ex-boyfriend ("Year of the Comet's" Tim Daly) and ex-girlfriend (Dana Wheeler Nicholson) trying to arrange a blind date between two of their single friends (Liev Schrieber and Caroleen Feeney), plus a pregnant woman (Alanna Ubach as the titular Denise) who's telephonically tracked down the man (Dan Gunther) who provided her sperm-bank donation.
   The conceit of this Davis Entertainment/Skyline Partners effort that these New Yorkers are too busy in their work-at-home schedules to ever meet in person gives them a certain loonybin aura and undercuts writer/director Harold Salwen's serious interest in these emblems of today's angst. But the players bring to life a script that could've seemed scholastic, and Salwen keeps onscreen happenings interesting with numerous quick cuts and, at the end, one perfectly restful frame. Starring Tim Daly, Dana Wheeler Nicholson and Alanna Ubach. Directed and written by Hal Salwen. Produced by J. Todd Harris. In Cannes' Critics Week. Sony Classics release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual references and nudity. Running time: 79 min. Reviewed at the Cannes Film Fest.
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