Review: ‘Comfortably Numb’

William Best Dana Ashbrook Meadow Adare Angela Shelton Hamlin Day Harry J. Lennix Kevin Murphy Harry O'Reilly Rapalle Ronald Guttman Mark Krasno William Wise Randall Best George N. Martin Emily Best Mary Beth Piel Victoria Stevens Tovah Feldshuh

William Best Dana Ashbrook Meadow Adare Angela Shelton Hamlin Day Harry J. Lennix Kevin Murphy Harry O’Reilly Rapalle Ronald Guttman Mark Krasno William Wise Randall Best George N. Martin Emily Best Mary Beth Piel Victoria Stevens Tovah Feldshuh

“Comfortably Numb” is a smartly mounted pic with no star power and a story-line about the moral dilemmas facing a Connecticut preppie-turned-NYC prosecutor. Unfortunately, it takes a fatal turn halfway through by becoming a lurid antidrug tract and never recovers. Pic showcases talents of cast and crew , but B.O. prospects are nil.

William (Dana Ashbrook of “Twin Peaks”) goes against his parents’ wishes by abandoning the family law firm for a job in the Manhattan D.A.’s office. There he’s befriended by senior attorney Hamlin Day (Harry J. Lennix), who has scrambled out of the ghetto and sees the law as the ticket to the life William has forsaken. An interesting wrinkle appears when the two double-date and William meets the provocative yet cultured Meadow (Angela Shelton), who turns out to be a professional escort.

William falls for her, even to the point of taking her to meet his parents. But instead of examining this relationship, the film’s second half lurches into new territory when Meadow introduces William to snorting heroin. Thus begins a downward spiral of increased drug use and the collapse of his life and work. Not only does the action become cliched, but it loses its dramatic momentum, as the only question is how much lower William can sink.

This is a shame, because there’s ample quality work on display here. Ashbrook is smooth as the earnest but sheltered attorney who finds real life a series of rude awakenings. Newcomer Shelton is a find as Meadow, believable as both seductress-for-hire and someone who could recognize a Mendelssohn piece. Lennix adds weight to the first half of the film as the attorney on the make, providing an interesting counterpoint to Ashbrook’s eager beaver. The supporting cast is top-notch as well, including George N. Martin and Mary Beth Piel as the parents who can’t understand what’s happening to their son.

The film looks great as well, with helmer Gavin O’Connor going for understated, often static shots, allowing the characters to move within the frame and making the viewer feel as if the scene was overheard rather than staged. He is helped by lenser Alik Sakharov, who gets to contrast the sunlit greens of a Connecticut golf course with the cramped, dark spaces of New York apartments and restaurants. Tech credits are consistently solid.

Unfortunately, this is all undone by O’Connor and Kirby Hayde’s script, which is more interested in chronicling a telepic-style descent into addiction than following the real people grappling with their lives in the first half of the film.

Comfortably Numb

Production

An Overseas Filmgroup production. Produced by Greg O'Connor, Executive producer, Larry Meistrich. Directed by Gavin O'Connor, Screenplay, Gavin O'Connor, Kirby Hayde.

Crew

Camera (color), Alik Sakharov; editor, Hughes Winborne; production design, Andras Kanegson; art direction, Daniel Goldfield; costume design, Ane Crabtree, sound, Annette Danto; casting, Lina Todd. Reviewed at Sony Copley Place Theatre, Boston, Aug. 28, 1995. (In Boston Film Festival.) Running time: 103 MIN.
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