Daily Archives: January 20, 1997

The Substance Of Fire

I suspect that Jon Robin Baitz’s play, about a Holocaust survivor who’s become a stubbornly idealistic publisher of books about the Holocaust and an inflexible father, worked very effectively onstage. But despite a compelling opening, as a movie it loses focus and purpose as it proceeds. Whether this is due to miscalculations on the part of either Baitz (adapting his own work) or Daniel Sullivan (a stage director turning to film for the first time), or to meddling on the part of the distributor I can’t say, but in its present form it sheds more heat than light. The cast is good, but like me they seem to have trouble figuring out why they’ve been summoned. With Ron Rifkin, Timothy Hutton, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Tony Goldwyn. (JR)… Read more »


Tim Roth, Thandie Newton, and the late Tupac Shakur play strung-out members of an offbeat Detroit band in a well-made and pointedly satirical feature written and directed by Vondie Curtis Hall. After Newton overdoses and winds up in a coma, Shakur decides that the other two need to kick their habitsbut the government bureaucracy, the police, and some hoods manage to dissuade them at every turn. Hall’s anger about the way society works never blunts his tenderness toward the central characters, and all three of the leads are fineespecially Roth, who’s thankfully free of the dem-der-dose dialect Woody Allen assigned him in Everyone Says I Love You. With John Sayles and Tom Towles. (JR)… Read more »