An attractive and intriguing premise is given disappointingly mundane treatment in “Auggie Rose,” which starts strongly but falters badly in the later going. Names of Jeff Goldblum and Anne Heche probably won’t be enough to drag a significant amount of theatrical coin out of this one, but vidbin sales are more promising.
Goldblum plays John C. Nolan Jr., a successful L.A. insurance mogul with a hot car, attractive girlfriend (Nancy Travis) and upscale lifestyle. But his life changes dramatically one night when, stopping by a neighborhood liquor store, he asks for a particular type of wine. A newly employed assistant (Kim Coates) is sent out back to find the bottle, and, in his absence, an armed man barges into the store and holds Nolan and the store owner at gun point; when the clerk re-emerges with the bottle, he gets fatally shot.
Nolan feels somehow responsible for the violent death of this stranger and attempts to find out more about him. His name was Auggie Rose, he was an ex-con, out of prison only a couple of days after serving 20 years for armed robbery. He lived in a small apartment and seemed to have no friends — until Nolan discovers he had a pen pal, a girl named Lucy who wrote to him when he was in prison and who is now coming to see him.
Nolan goes to the bus depot to meet Lucy (Heche) and finds himself unable to reveal what’s happened to Auggie; as a result, Lucy assumes Nolan is Auggie and moves into the tiny apartment with him. Touched by the love and affection he receives from this innocent young woman, Nolan goes along with the deception, selling his car, leaving behind his business and finding the same kind of work Auggie did, behind the counter in a deli.
Thus far, pic is an involving and interestingly skewed examination of a man given a new chance in life when he assumes another’s identity, but writer-director Matthew Tabak seems uncertain where to take it from there. There are hints that dramatic events will occur, especially with the arrival of the dangerous Roy Mason (Timothy Olyphant), who wants Auggie to join him in an armed robbery. But these plot strands never develop in an intriguing way, and in the end the film just peters out.
Goldblum gives an intriguing interpretation of Nolan, a prosperous man who, almost in spite of himself, starts a new life in fairly impoverished circumstances. Heche struggles a bit with her character of the simple country girl who moves in with a man she thinks is an ex-con with a violent past.
Technical credits are standard for this kind of medium- to low-budget production.