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She’s So Lovely (1997, Sean Penn, Robin Wright)

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Things are kept in the family on Nick Cassavetes’ follow-up to his acclaimed debut Unhook The Stars . As well as the husband and wife pairing of Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn, the film is based on a script written in the ’70s by Cassavetes’ father, John. It’s also features an appearance by John’s wife Gena Rowlands in a minor role.

It’s no surprise, therefore, to find that She’s So Lovely has all the trademark characteristics of a John Cassavetes movie: wonderfully natural performances by actors playing inarticulate, avowedly ‘real’ people, struggling to deal with their emotions and love lives. But where the likes of Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk would have been cast in the lead roles in the ’70s, this time it’s the two Penns and John Travolta who take centre stage.

Sean Penn – who won the best actor award at Cannes for his performance here – is Eddie, a heavy drinker who’s prone to disappear for days on end. It’s during one of these absences that his wife Maureen (Robin Wright Penn) turns to a neighbour, Kiefer ( Sopranos star James Gandolfini), for help. However, after trying to rape her, he beats her, leaving Maureen bruised and emotionally battered. When Eddie finds out the source of her injuries, he goes wild and, in the ensuing melee, accidentally shoots a police officer and ends up in a mental asylum.

Ten years later, Maureen has sorted her life out. She’s now married to Joey (Travolta) and has had two children with him. They’re also bringing up Jeanie (Kelsey Mulrooney), Maureen’s daughter with Eddie. This domestic bliss is shattered, though, when Eddie is released from hospital and arranges to meet his ex, with whom he’s still in love.

Critics were fulsome in praise of the cast, with one US writer noting that the actors perform ‘with a commitment and daring that’s all too rare in American film’. Despite the promise of his first two films, Nick Cassavetes has only just finished his third movie, the Denzel Washington drama J ohn Q.

production details
France – USA | 100 minutes | 1997

Writer and Director: Nick Cassavetes

cast
Sean Penn as Eddie Quinn
Robin Wright as Maureen Murphy Quinn
John Travolta as Joey Germoni
James Gandolfini as Kiefer
Harry Dean Stanton as Tony ‘Shorty’ Russo
Debi Mazar as Georgie
Susan Traylor as Lucinda
Chris Kinkade as Security Guard
Chloe Webb as Nancy Swearingen
Bobby Cooper as Cooper
Burt Young as Lorenzo
Gena Rowlands as Miss Green
Kelsey Mulrooney as Jeannie
David Thornton as Saul Sunday
Jamie Bozian as Intern #1
Paul Johansson as Intern #2
Justina Machado as Carmen Rodriguez – Lady Ticket Taker
James Soravilla as Avi
Ilya Brodsky as Taxi Driver
Tito Larriva as Lead Singer