Unhook the Stars (1996)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Domestic Comedy, Family Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 1, 1996 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - France , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Nick Cassavetes proves the apple doesn't fall far from the tree with his directorial debut, Unhook the Stars, which has all the ingredients of a film his father, John, would have made -- including star Gena Rowlands, Nick's mother. This is not a ringing endorsement of the movie, however; the elder Cassavetes, while respected for his independent spirit, often presented slices of life that were maddeningly unfulfilling, which is also a problem of his son's wide-eyed homage. Because the minor turning points in the lives of these rough-around-the-edges characters are humdrum by design, Unhook the Stars needs to be an acting-driven film. But only Rowlands shows any chops, and even she seems a bit embarrassed by the dialogue she's asked to deliver, limiting her effectiveness. Marisa Tomei and Moira Kelly overact wildly, with Tomei spouting the f-word in such a tactless hailstorm that it becomes a false note of not only the screenplay, but also her performance as she seems aggressively intent on going against type. Gerard Depardieu still seems to be hampered in English-language roles, and one can only guess why this movie inspired George Lucas to cast Jake Lloyd as the young Annakin Skywalker, since his readings are stiff and emotionless even for an actor of his tender age. Ultimately, Unhook the Stars is a laborious character study of uninteresting characters, with all the frustrations of a John Cassavetes film but too few of its sharper observations.