Volume 92, Issue 89
Wednesday, March 17, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Deep End of the Ocean ends up shallow
©Photo by Zade Rosenthal
REALLY? YOU WANT ME TO EXPLAIN THE BIRDS AND THE BEES NOW? Beth Cappadora (Michelle Pfeiffer) talks to her son (Ryan Merriman) once being reunited with him almost a decade after his disappearance.
By Sara Martel
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where Deep End of the Ocean goes wrong. It doesn't suffer from the usual blatant cinematic ills, but it still leaves audiences with a lukewarm film.
Based on a novel by Jacquelyn Mitchard, the movie tells the story of the Cappadora family. Pat and Beth Cappadora, played by Treat Williams and Michelle Pfeiffer respectively, begin as a typical happy family with three children. The movie raises questions of what a family is and what is needed to keep one together once Beth and Pat face every parent's most harrowing fear the disappearance of one of their children.
The movie follows the Cappadoras as they deal with the pain and guilt of losing their son Ben. An intense trauma which threatens Pat and Beth's marriage, as well as the happiness of the other children in the family. Then, after almost a decade, a miracle occurs when Ben is reunited with his family.
The movie's strength can be easily accredited to the striking performances of the entire cast. Pfeiffer has proved her ability before with Academy Award winning performances in The Fabulous Baker Boys and Dangerous Liaisons. Audiences will certainly not be disappointed with Pfeiffer's efforts here as she gives a not only a realistic, but often chilling portrayal of a mother who has lost her son.
Fortunately, Pfeiffer's superb acting is heightened by the equally impressive performances by the other cast members. A particularly notable performance was given by Jonathan Jackson, who plays the eldest son in the family, Vincent. Jackson is probably best known for his role as Lucky on General Hospital, but after this performance movie-goers will be hopeful this young actor will take a serious focus in a film career.
Despite the powerful acting, director Ulu Grosbard does not offer enough substance to keep the film afloat, leaving audiences with an indistinguishable sense of dissatisfaction.
Because the story is based on such a melancholic subject, the film does have its emotionally stirring moments but with the melodrama comes the loss of reality. What results is not a cohesive story, as the plot presents a blatant oversight of significant issues. Although the movie does quite well with exploring the emotional side of Ben's reunion with his family and the consequent severance with his new family, it leaves many logistic questions unanswered or even addressed.
Even outside of the plot itself, The Deep End of the Ocean is simply lacking poignancy. There is nothing in Grosbard's film, whether in the score or cinematography, which adds to the story's dramatic possibilities.
The weakness of The Deep End of the Ocean comes not by what it does, but by what it does not. In the end, the movie's weighty subject and compelling performances are not enough to bring it to its full potential.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999