Between the urban romance and melodrama of Zebrahead and the pervasive misanthropy of Hurlyburly, director Anthony Drazan filmed this nostalgic, melancholy coming-of-age story about an aspiring writer and her deadbeat father. Starring Fairuza Balk in a role not too dissimilar from her character in Gas Food Lodging, Imaginary Crimes plays like an amalgam of Author, Author, This Boy's Life, and Paper Moon. Harvey Keitel hits the right note of dogged, starry-eyed optimism in his portrayal of Ray Weiler, a struggling father and would-be inventor who doesn't quite realize that he's a con man. Meanwhile, in a series of flashbacks cleverly staged as the protagonist's sepia-tinged short stories, Kelly Lynch nails the resignation of Ray's disappointed, dying wife. The supporting class is equally fine, especially future Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Amber Benson as Sonya's mischievous, empathetic best friend. Vincent D'Onofrio is stuck with an underwritten role as the girls' stern but saintly creative writing teacher, but he does what he can with it. Meanwhile, young Elisabeth Moss keeps her cuteness in check as Greta, Sonya's grave younger sister. Some fans of Sheila Ballantyne's 1982 source novel complained that Kristine Johnson and Davia Nelson's screenplay glossed over some of the author's subtle, non-judgemental tone. Despite any liberties the adaptation may take with the book, however, this is a thoughtful, subtle film with plenty of layers.
by Brian J. Dillard review