Sweet Jane

on July 14, 2000 by Ray Greene
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   "Midnight Cowboy" meets "Reality Bites" in this saga of doom generation excess, which is redeemed mainly by sincere and clever writing and a pair of surprisingly effective performances from slumming mainstream actors. Samantha Mathis ("Broken Arrow") is Jane, a twentyish junkie/stripper/prostitute who's just been informed she has AIDS. As she leaves the hospital for one more desperate, heroin-fueled bender, Jane is spotted by Tony ("10 Things I Hate About You's" Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an adolescent troublemaker with an undisclosed terminal illness and a nasty cough. To Tony, Jane is an angelic apparition of redemption. He follows her, transfixed, and the two embark on an alternately bickering and transfiguring walk through L.A.'s wild side, culminating in a potent and tragic kicker.
   As multiple walk-outs during its Santa Barbara Fest screening indicated, it's difficult to say what Mathis and Gordon-Levitt can hope to gain by strutting their stuff in such sordid surroundings. But their assured and easy chemistry provides what could have been a pointless freakshow with a movingly human heart.    Starring Samantha Mathis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Directed and written by Joe Gayton. Produced by W.K. Border and Clark Hunter. A Phaedra release. Comedy/Drama. Running time: 83 min.
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