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"The Bachelor," "Anywhere But Here" and on video, "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl"

Quick Flicks

!B! "The Bachelor"
!B! "Anywhere But Here"
!B! Now on Video: "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl"

"The Bachelor" - Just another Hollywood take on love and romance that plumbs the depth of predictability. Chris O'Donnell is a confirmed bachelor on the cusp of 30. He's been dating Rene Zellweger for three years now, but just can't seem to pop the question. While he's happy with the status quo, she's running out of patience.

But when his grandfather bequeaths him $100 million on the condition that he marry before his 30th birthday, well, comic hijinks ensue. At least they're supposed to. You see, O'Donnell's character turns 30 in just 24 hours, and since he botches the proposal to Zellweger, he's got to find himself a bride.

By portraying women as either marriage-crazy or money-hungry, "The Bachelor's" misplaced misogyny keeps the movie from being the lighthearted romance it should be. Although O'Donnell and Zellweger are as cute as buttons, I found "The Bachelor" less than engaging.

"Anywhere But Here" - Susan Sarandon dons another mother inferior role in the heartfelt melodrama "Anywhere But Here." Based on a Mona Simpson novel which I must admit is a favorite, the movie adequately explores the love-hate relationship between mother and teen-age daughter.

Directed by Wayne Wang, "Anywhere But Here" is a road movie with a twist: While Mom Sarandon and progeny Natalie Portman actually hit the road, they both are on a quest to discover what they'll be when they grow up. The touching part is that mom should have decided her path decades ago, and Portman can't seem to carve out a future that doesn't include mothering her own mother.

Wang lets Sarandon run free with her character while wisely keeping Portman's portrayal tightly reined in. Like yin and yang, Sarandon and Portman struggle to reach homeostasis in their tumultuous relationship.

Although at times it's far too melodramatic, "Anywhere But Here" still resonates with an authenticity that is universal.

Now on Video "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl" - One of my favorite movies of 1999, and one that never enjoyed a first-run in Richmond, it tells the tale of a 15-year-old girl (Xiu Xiu) during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Xiu Xiu is sent to the country to be "educated" (through manual labor) in the service of her country.

After an exemplary record on her first assignment, Xiu Xiu is sent to the Tibetan borderlands to study under master horse herder Lao Jin (Lopsang).

Her teacher is a gentle man more at home with animals than humans, and soon the two settle into an easy communion. But Xiu Xiu yearns for civilization. When her six-months are up without her being recalled, Xiu Xiu becomes desperate to leave. Soon a number of traveling males find their way into her bed; all promising to pull strings to get Xiu Xiu back to the city. They, of course, never deliver on those promises, and the impotent Lao Jin must sit by mute.

As touching and well-written as "Xiu Xiu" is, the most surprising fact is that it is the first-time writing and directing effort by so-so actress Joan Chen. Best known for her continuing role in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks," her acting never hinted at the talents she displays with this film. A stunner, "Xiu Xiu" is a video store must for anyone who values foreign films.

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