Eye Of God

on October 17, 1997 by Jon A. Walz
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   Ainsley Dupree ("Beautiful Girls'" Martha Plimpton) is a lonely young waitress in a small-town diner. She has been waiting for years to meet a prisoner with whom she has been corresponding: a man who, unbeknownst to her for some reason, is incarcerated for brutally killing his pregnant wife. Ainsley and Jack (Kevin Anderson, of TV's "Nothing Sacred") finally meet, fall in love, and marry quickly--and she becomes pregnant.
   Hal Holbrook ("The Firm"), in a lovely role as a moral, world-weary cop, opens the picture in a questioning voiceover about why God, in the Bible, would command Abraham to kill his own son. Although beginning provocatively, Tim Blake Nelson's visually ambitious but dramatically benign and sickeningly tragic story of a romance between a right-wing religious zealot and a woman who long ago rejected God fizzles. Nelson continuously beats the audience with Holbrook's question, failing to craft a cohesive narrative around it. Instead, he--like numerous directors on the independent scene--substitutes cool camera stuff and exotic editing for dramatic substance. The predictable ending is there; it's just in the first act instead of the last.
   Nevertheless, what remains is a well-cast and well-performed little picture. Plimpton is mesmerizing as a sad, hopeless young woman; Holbrook is as strong as he has ever been on film; and young Nick Stahl ("Man Without a Face"), who plays a troubled town boy, does so with unexpected power and grace. It's a shame that this strong cast had such weak material to play.    Starring Martha Plimpton, Hal Holbrook, Kevin Anderson and Nick Stahl. Directed and written by Tim Blake Nelson. Produced by Wendy Ettinger and Michael Nelson. A Castle Hill release. Drama. Rated R for violence, language and depiction of abortion. Running time: 84 min.
Tags: Martha Plimpton, Hal Holbrook, Kevin Anderson and Nick Stahl, Tim Blake Nelson, Wendy Ettinger, Michael Nelson, Castle Hill release, Drama, cops, exotic, predictable, God, killings
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