Considered by most critics to be Robert Altman protégé Alan Rudolph's best film -- at least until the celebrated Afterglow 13 years later -- Choose Me is nonetheless probably a hard pill to swallow for mainstream audiences unused to the director's idiosyncrasies. Those willing to embrace Rudolph's unorthodox pacing and offbeat moods, however, will be rewarded with a film that reveals new emotional and intellectual layers on each successive viewing. A combination sex comedy and philosophical rumination on people's desire to connect, Choose Me eschews Hollywood slickness for a sort of deliberate awkwardness that is far closer to real life than most so-called "romantic comedies." From Genevieve Bujold's supremely analytical but passion-impaired radio sex doctor to Lesley Ann Warren's wounded, compulsively unattached barkeep and Keith Carradine's matter-of-factly delusional drifter, the movie's characters fumble around in the dark -- sometimes figuratively but often literally -- trying to find some way to pair off without losing their essential selves. Along the way, co-writer/director Rudolph takes in an assortment of peripheral nightlife denizens: a pouty would-be poetess; a bruised, brooding bartender; and an adulterous French gangster who doesn't care if his wife cheats as long as she doesn't get kinky. Against the backdrop of production designer Steven G. Legler's drowsy, twilight dream of Los Angeles, these players reveal our eternal romantic rituals to be more a matter of deceit and circumstance than of desire; in Rudolph's world, lives are changed after a passing glance and the only people who tell the truth are the ones who claim to be liars. Unfortunately, not every member of the ensemble can carry off the stylized acting that is both a hallmark of Rudolph's films and a precursor to the affected mannerisms of early Hal Hartley efforts; Rae Dawn Chong, in particular, teeters precariously between portraying her character's peevish vapidity and succumbing to it herself. But from cinematographer Jan Kiesser's creative use of mirror shots and stylish framing to the Teddy Pendergrass ballads that pepper the jazz/soul soundtrack, Choose Me is, on the whole, a remarkably consistent and self-assured film that retains its subtle power even when the performances occasionally falter.
by Brian J. Dillard review