First Love, Last Rites

on August 07, 1998 by Susan Green
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In making the transition from bass player for The Lemonheads to director of a debut feature, Jesse Peretz chose a project with solid literary credentials. "First Love, Last Rites" is adapted with lyrical charm from a short story by Ian McEwan, the British writer also responsible for the discomforting "Comfort of Strangers." Peretz, a veteran of shorts and music videos, relocates this fragile tale from the English coast to the Louisiana bayou. Director of photography Tom Richmond gives the landscape a ethereal and languorous look to match the movie's mood. There, a young couple (Natasha Gregson Wagner and a convincing Giovanni Ribisi) maintain a lifestyle of romantic inertia until her sinister, ne'er-do-well father (Robert John Burke) lures him into a fruitless eel-fishing scheme. Wagner, daughter of the late Natalie Wood, infuses her character with more neurosis than the script warrants and a rather thoughtlessly conceived dream sequence seems to suggest she might be a drowning victim. Starring Natasha Gregson Wagner and Giovanni Ribisi. Directed by Jesse Peretz. Written by David Ryan. Produced by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Amanda Temple. A Strand release. Drama. Not rated. Running time: 98 min
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