Cherish Movie Review
Don't tell the other movie critics I said this, but once in a very great while I see an independent film I wish could have been a big budget Hollywood studio picture. Sometimes a good idea, a lot of enthusiasm and a shoestring budget just aren't enough.
Take "Cherish," for example. This creative but contrived and gimmick-driven comedy-thriller is about a geeky, socially inept young beauty (Robin Tunney), who is falsely accused of a hit-and-run and incarcerated in her own sparse and funky loft while awaiting trial, monitored by one of those electronic ankle bracelet programs.
Going stir-crazy because she's the kind of girl who can't stand to be alone (of men she says "I don't think I'd go out with so many if any one would call me back"), Tunney spends the movie trying to outwit the system that will set off an alarm at police headquarters if she wanders out of the bracelet's range.
Writer-director Finn Taylor ("Dream With the Fishes") invents other ways to keep his heroine busy. She throws herself at delivery boys, buddies up to her gay, Jewish, disabled dwarf neighbor (Ricardo Gil) and sexually baits the milquetoast monitoring officer (Tim Blake Nelson) who comes to visit whenever she breaks the rules, eventually forming a strange romantic attachment with him.
Taylor achieves a certain flavorful eccentricity in "Cherish," but if ever there were a movie in need of a script doctor, this is it. Except for the subplot involving nerdy Nelson, every bit of business used to flesh out the story and the characters feels like padded pretext. The worst of it is a distracting, hole-riddled subplot involving a stalker, who is a plot device without dimension. His lollipop-and-hip-hugger fantasies about Tunney are littered throughout the film and her efforts to turn the tables on the creep take over the movie's last act, which is an illogical mess that requires a complete abandonment of common sense.
Given the luxury of time, money, and another pass at the screenplay, "Cherish" could have been witty, sexy, slick and far more focused. Instead the movie has only sporadic bursts of imagination, like the time-lapse montage sequence that uses Tunney's bored TV channel surfing as a jumping off point for its milieu.
Talented and tantalizing but odd enough to have geek credibility, Tunney ("Vertical Limit," "End of Days") gives a fine performance as the twittering, insecure main character who learns a lot about independence from being incarcerated within reach of the outside world. Nelson (best known as dimwitted Delmer in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") is good as well, as he allows himself to fall for Tunney and eventually help her against his better judgement.
But the actors suffer under Taylor's point-and-shoot direction, which strips their scenes of chemistry and charisma. The movie could certainly do with a little Hollywood razzle-dazzle, or at the very least a little more rehearsal.
I'm not saying "Cherish" couldn't have been a good independent movie. But with its low-rent airs, its disjointed plot elements and its uneven, elusive tone, the film lacks the kind of professionalism, polish and panache it needed to realize its potential.