A coming-of-age piece that is slight to the point of anaemia, Unstrung Heroes sports a wilful eccentricity that almost immediately becomes annoying. Diane Keaton's debut dramatic feature aims for a distinctively offbeat tone that never really gels, and the movie's emotional power, stemming from personal growth through family tragedy, falls short of the goal as well.

A coming-of-age piece that is slight to the point of anaemia, Unstrung Heroes sports a wilful eccentricity that almost immediately becomes annoying. Diane Keaton’s debut dramatic feature aims for a distinctively offbeat tone that never really gels, and the movie’s emotional power, stemming from personal growth through family tragedy, falls short of the goal as well.

Set in middle-class Los Angeles in 1962, yarn [from the book by Franz Lidz] focuses on 12-year-old Steven Lidz (Nathan Watt), a bright kid whose life at home becomes too much to take. Father Sid (John Turturro), a genius inventor, has always been a bit around the bend, forever imposing his rigorous scientific standards and weird contraptions on Steven and his little sister Sandy (Kendra Krull).

After mom Selma (Andie MacDowell) becomes ill, Steven feels compelled to run away to the home of his seriously goofy uncles Danny (Michael Richards) and Arthur (Maury Chaykin). Home, in this case, consists of a newspaper-and-tchotchke-infested apartment in a skid-row hotel.

Richards and Chaykin command the interest whenever they’re around, but Turturro brings little feeling to a man who, at least on paper, would seem to be tormented by the craziness in his family, his inability to communicate with his son and the knowledge that he will soon lose his wife. MacDowell floats through it all in a nearly blissful daze.

1995: Nomination: Original Musical or Comedy Score

Unstrung Heroes

Production

Hollywood. Director Diane Keaton; Producer Susan Arnold, Donna Roth, Richard LaGravenese; Screenplay Richard LaGravenese; Camera Phedon Papamichael; Editor Lisa Churgin; Music Thomas Newman; Art Director Garreth Stover

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1995. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Andie MacDowell John Turturro Michael Richards Maury Chaykin Nathan Watt Kendra Krull
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