Actor Kevin Bacon displays signs of nascent talent in his directorial debut "Losing Chase." He draws successfully from his core cast members and provides the dramatic tale with an easy, graceful style. But much of that accomplishment is undone by an ill-defined script.

Actor Kevin Bacon displays signs of nascent talent in his directorial debut “Losing Chase.” He draws successfully from his core cast members and provides the dramatic tale with an easy, graceful style. But much of that accomplishment is undone by an ill-defined script.

Produced for Showtime cable, the tale of a woman in emotional crisis has slim theatrical prospects and is more likely to receive a warm response on the small screen.

Chase Phillips (Helen Mirren) is recovering from depression and exhaustion at the family cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. To ease the process, her husband, Richard (Beau Bridges), has hired a mother’s helper for the summer to tend to her needs and those of their preteen sons. But when Elizabeth (Kyra Sedgwick) arrives, the troubled woman adopts a combative attitude, daring the younger woman to withstand her verbal abuse.

Elizabeth, however, is made of stern stuff. Madness has run in her family, we learn when she visits an institutionalized sister who dishes it out with ferocity comparable to that of Chase. Still, one rainy evening, the young woman loses control and explodes at the title character. That appears to bring Chase out of her funk.

Much of the problem in Anne Meredith’s script is its lack of focus. Clearly, Chase, who narrates the tale, is primary. But from time to time Elizabeth takes center stage, and the transition leaves narrative holes that beg for answers. We never quite know what pushed Chase over the edge or what ultimately helps her.

She recovers and quickly resumes recreational activity, household duties and relationships with her sons. Even so, it comes as a shock when she declares her love for Elizabeth, sending the drama spinning in a whole new, confusing direction.

Mirren is luminescent through all of Chase’s character shifts. She never falters in conveying the extremes of the woman’s personality, providing credibility when the script does not. Sedgwick is strong in a largely reactive role, and Bridges has Richard’s decency and daunting qualities perfectly calibrated. Bathed in warm sunlight, “Losing Chase” is a handsome production. Bacon nicely complements its look with skillful cutting and an evocative score by his brother Michael. But the script’s the thing that eludes his grasp and mutes this otherwise distinctive debut.

Losing Chase

Production

A Showtime Original production. Produced by Milton Justice. Executive producer, Kyra Sedgwick. Directed by Kevin Bacon. Screenplay, Anne Meredith.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color), Dick Quinlan; editor, Alan Baumgarten; music, Michael Bacon; production design, Lindsey Hermer-Bell; costume design, Jocelyn Wright; sound (Ultra-Stereo), Urmes Rosen; assistant director, David MacLeod; casting, Jim Gerussi. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (premiere), Jan. 23, 1996. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Chase Phillips - Helen Mirren
Elizabeth Cole - Kyra Sedgwick
Richard Phillips - Beau Bridges
Richard Phillips - Michael Yarmush
Jason Phillips - Lucas Denton
Cynthia Porter - Nancy Beatty

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