While plowing the cinematic and dramatic ground already furrowed in films from "Brief Encounter" to "Last Tango in Paris," low-budget indie entry "Fall" fails to turn over new ground. Though its subject matter covers the terrain of sexual intimacy and doomed love, "Fall" fails to engage emotionally or pay off with fresh insights. After a brief theatrical fling, pic will settle down to a modest vid life and a small house in cable country.

While plowing the cinematic and dramatic ground already furrowed in films from “Brief Encounter” to “Last Tango in Paris,” low-budget indie entry “Fall” fails to turn over new ground. Though its subject matter covers the terrain of sexual intimacy and doomed love, “Fall” fails to engage emotionally or pay off with fresh insights. After a brief theatrical fling, pic will settle down to a modest vid life and a small house in cable country.

On one of those fateful days in Manhattan that are a staple of urban romantic comedies and dramas, cab driver Michael Shiver (Eric Schaeffer) encounters supermodel Sarah Easton (Amanda DeCadenet) and a short cab ride lights the fuse for the ensuing hour and a half of coupling, soul-searching and yearning for true love.

In one of the niftiest special effects of the summer season, the short, blue-collar, semi-attractive Michael proves to be irresistible to the beautiful, rich, worldly and married Sarah. She grapples mightily with the moral dilemma of staying in a marriage that is safe but unfulfilling or jumping into a mad whirlwind of passion with a sensitive cabbie prone to spouting McKuen-esque poetry when he’s not bouncing around in the full-frontal nude (which she never deigns to join in on), and inflaming her newly discovered libido.

Since her hubbie, Phillipe (Rudolph Martin), a drop-dead gorgeous European nobleman, is off in Madrid for two months, the break in the marriage is a convenient pause for the cause of sexual exploration and hanging with the regular guy of her dreams. When she discovers that he’s not completely regular, but actually a successful writer who has shunned her world, she comes unglued.

Before the Manhattan leaves turn gold, fantasies of sharing her life eating cheap take-out food in a boho apartment begin to tarnish and the lure of life with pretty boy Phillipe begins to pull her back to her jet-set roots, leaving mournful Michael back at his workpad churning out reams of dreamy prose about her “wry smile” and a faraway future where they’ll walk together on “the white cliffs of Dover.” Honest.

The possibilities for humor and pathos in the relationship are almost completely unrealized, the first due to a paucity of sharp dialogue and the second a casualty of Schaeffer’s conception of Michael as literary hip angel fallen from the cognoscenti and self-banished to life in a yellow cab. Virtually no one in the real world could identify with Michael and only supermodels will find themselves sharing sympathy with Sarah. This rarefied world that Schaeffer has created might connect if there were any plot turns or character developments that hadn’t already been done with infinitely more polish and inspiration.

Director-writer Schaeffer hit critical paydirt with his first low-budgeter, “My Life Is In Turnaround,” and less so with “If Lucy Fell” (where Schaeffer’s character beds another superdish, played by Elle Macpherson), but “Fall” is a misstep that should cause him to reconsider how best to package his not-inconsiderable talents.

He’s a funny, off-beat character actor and his direction of the performances here are solid, though DeCadenet is perhaps miscast as the ultimate swoon object she’s purported to be. The under $1 million budget is effectively marshaled, with exceptionally sharp lensing by d.p. Joe DeSalvo and terrific location work in New York and (briefly) Paris.

But the screenplay proves to be one-too-many hats for Schaeffer. Without a strong counterbalancing hand to pull him back from randy solipsism, Schaeffer has indulged himself in a fantasy that was probably fun to make, but a chore to share.

Fall

Production

A Five Minutes Before the Miracle presentation. (Intl. sales: Capella) Produced by Terrence Michael, Eric Schaeffer. Executive producer, Tom Gamble. Directed, written by Eric Schaeffer.

Crew

Camera (color), Joe De Salvo; editor, Thom Zinney; music, Amanda Kravat; production design, Michael Shaw; costume design, Kim Marie Druce; line producer, James Bradney; casting, Sheila Jafee, Georgianne Walken. Reviewed at Laemmle's Sunset 5, Los Angeles, June 26, 1997. (In Seattle Film Festival.) Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Michael - Eric Schaeffer
Sarah - Amanda DeCadenet
Phillipe - Rudolph Martin
Robin - Francie Swift
Sally - Lisa Vidal
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