The Perfect Storm

| July 5, 2000

The Perfect Storm is not a prefect film. However, if you generally like movies, have any interest in the weather, and can be fascinated by spectacular special effects and dazzling sound, consider this an enthusiastic recommendation!
The setting is in, over, and near Glocester, Massachusetts; the year is 1991. The true story tells of local fishermen’s battle with the storm of the century and is based on the best selling book by Sebastian Junger. I’m a big fan of both the book and its author, which may explain my slight disappointment in what’s on the screen. My objections are mostly about what isn’t there rather than what is. I often complain about the length of recent films and consider most far too long. Not this time… at 129 minutes, I feel that 10 additional minutes of character development, particularly near the start of the film, would have given the film a lot more emotional power and balance.
I wanted to know more about these people that were placed in jeopardy and the folks back home that cared about them. Also, as well done as it was, I suspect that the footage of the trio on the private sailboat should have been eliminated.
The cast is, well…perfect. As the most prominent fisherman, George Clooney continues to build a major career. I thought he was terrific in Three Kings, super in television’s ER, passable in Batman & Robin, but weak in One Fine Day and The Peacemaker.
Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, Three Kings) is ideal casting as another fisherman and makes the most of a strong part;John C. Reilly (Boogie Nights, Magnolia) and William Fichtner (Go, Passion Of Mind) add rich texture in important supporting parts.
Diane Lane (Streets Of Fire, The Cotton Club, A Walk On The Moon) is one of the most underrated and under-utilized actresses. She deserves a supporting actress nomination for her work here. Until now, I’d never liked Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Color Of Money, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves). This time, she won me over completely as the captain of a rival fishing boat and friend of George Clooney. I was delighted to see Karen Allen (Cruising, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Starman) listed in the credits, but found it impossible to ever get a good look at her because of the (necessary) dark lighting and costumes for her scenes. She has long been a favorite of mine, but, sadly, there are few parts for 50 year old actresses these days; I guess she’s lucky to just get to continue to work.
Direction by Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, In The Line Of Fire, Air Force One) is quietly professional and entirely appropriate. William D. Wittliff (television’s Lonesome Dove, the films Legends Of The Fall, The Black Stallion) adapted Sebastian Junger’s book and did an excellent job of telescoping the material into manageable form for the screen. That couldn’t have been easy, since the book is based on actual people and events. Imposed restrictions of this sort must drive a screen writer crazy. I found much of the film more satisfying and easier to understand than parts of the book.
All technical contributions are state-of-the art. In particular, the people at Industrial Light & Magic need to plan more display space for the richly deserved awards they can expect.
Immediately after seeing the film, I bought the soundtrack CD at the music store next door to the theater. Nevertheless, I consider this film extremely over-scored. It has probably twice as much music as would be ideal. That isn’t to say that James Horner (Aliens, Glory, Braveheart, Titanic and over 100 additional theatrical films!) isn’t one of the best film composers. This time, however, either he, the producers or the director simply didn’t know when to stop! With all due respect to Mae West, this is one time where too much of a good thing is NOT wonderful! The theme song, “Yours Forever,” performed and co-written by John Cougar Mellencamp is memorable and should receive a nomination as Oscar’s best song next year.
In closing, while I realize that it takes a lot of guts to criticize a marketing campaign that yields boxoffice results likely to be in the $80 million range for the first seven days of release, I still question the use of that photo featured in all the posters and ads. I think that particular shot should only be seen on the giant movie screen where it is truly amazing.

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