Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:57 - Released 2/16/01

Wow. Words fail me. There is no adequate way of describing how awful Pat O'Connor's Sweet November is, but I think I may be able to encapsulate it in two words: Keanu Reeves. I thought Reeves was bad in The Watcher, The Replacements, and The Devil's Advocate, but nothing could have prepared me for how putrescent his performance would be in this sappy, tragic love story based on Robert Ellis Miller's 1968 version starring Sandy Dennis and Anthony Newley. Teaming up with his old Devil's Advocate partner, Charlize Theron, Reeves stinks up every minute of celluloid on which he appears, reading his lines in his regular flat, deadpan style, showing no emotion, no depth, no recognizable human characteristics whatsoever save his pretty face and well-sculpted biceps, not even when the make-up artists have been called in to squeeze fake tears onto his cheeks with eyedroppers. He's not believable at the beginning when he's supposed to be hard-edged and competitive, he's not believable at the end when he's supposed to be playful and romantic, and he's not believable during any point in between. Good golly, I think he's a replicant.

I wish I could say that Reeves is the film's only weak point (which has often been the case with his career), but unfortunately this time the material has sunk to his level. This update of Herman Raucher's '68 screenplay, by Paul Yurick and Kurt Voelker, employs the most trite, cloying romance devices known to Hollowwood writers, as if to showcase all the worst ideas possible in one film. The story is stupid, the dialogue is laughably styleless and insipid from the first scene, the characters are the flattest of stereotypes, and the ending is the most insultingly brain-dead thing of all. Theron, struggling against the immense weight of mediocrity around her, is the only thing remotely palatable about this film (as has often been the case with her career), but even with her talent, she can't possibly make the experience worthwhile; we simply pity her for having signed on.

Reeves plays hotshot advertising agent Nelson Moss, whose chance meeting with quirky, unpredictable animal lover Sara Deever (Theron) puts him on a collision course with adulthood. Although this wooden Pinocchio at first has no desire to become a real boy, Sara insists that if he move in with her for one month, she will help him understand the true meaning of life. Reviling her and everything she stands for, he sleeps with her (the natural reaction) and is soon entangled in her topsy-turvy web of romance. He plays her giggly game of blindman's bluff. He takes giggly bubble baths with her. He watches admiringly as she does giggly cartwheels on the beach and wears a different color of scarf every giggly day of the week. Although his former partner, hotshot advertising agent Vince (Greg Germann) tries to lure him back to the fast lane, Nelson finds himself so in love with Sara that he proposes marriage, only to discover that she has some deep, dark secret preventing her from accepting. Adhering strictly to her one-month agreement (which she has apparently done with a number of guys before — what a gig), she insists that he leave when November is over, because now that he's become a hopeless romantic with no job, no car, and no career, she's finished with him. Talk about a man-eater.

This movie represents everything that is evil about Hollywood. Brainless romances like this are churned out by the dozen every year, luring millions of moviegoers to their local multiplexes, and to the conclusion that this is the best we can do. For shame. *

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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