(2002)3Brian J. DillardThe existential angst of the singles-bar set received its most notable excavation in the alternating liberation and danger of Looking for Mr. Goodbar. This downbeat made-for-cable drama doesn't feature a violent retribution reel, but it also lacks any sense that its working-class characters find much freedom going through their romantic paces. Uma Thurman gives a fearless performance as an insecure Jersey girl who's looking for love in the same wrong place over and over again. Snippy, petty, and constantly worried that her sidekick Beth (Juliette Lewis) will find the happiness that eludes her, Debby's the proverbial damaged goods. This leaves Thurman no room for sympathy or glamour, only pity, which isn't always easy to watch. As for Lewis, she has played the same part over and over again, but here, despite a few easy '80s laughs, she gets the kind of material that grants her dignity and depth. The film may sometimes feel like the downbeat flipside of the fraudulently feel-good Riding in Cars With Boys, but Lewis has her welfare-mom schtick down way better than Brittany Murphy ever could. It helps that Laura Cahill's script connects the dots across generations of women. Gena Rowlands has aged gracefully into the elder stateswoman of cinematic realness, and her careworn, quietly hopeful matriarch gives the film its sense of balance. The scene in which Rowlands and Thurman joyfully contemplate a roomful of new furniture compensates for the cloying finale, which elicits groans with its false sentimentality. Except for that final misstep, director Mira Nair trusts her instincts and turns in another solid family mosaic, albeit one with less of a celebratory air.