November Movie Review
Well, the lackluster Groove eventually made a little over a million dollars at theaters, despite a crush of marketing and hype. (Blair Witch earned $140 million in the U.S.) And Harrison slipped back into obscurity.
2005 sees Harrison's return to filmmaking with a far different experience. Gone are the glo-sticks and pacifiers, in are Courteney Cox and a freak-out story that you'll either feel is energized and original or confusing and overdone. Frankly, it's all of the above.
The highly stylized movie begins with Sophie Jacobs (Cox) stopping off at a corner store for a late night sugar fix with boyfriend Hugh (James LeGros). He won't come out with Haagen Dazs: A robber kills him and everyone else inside, leaving Sophie to deal with the grief. Sophie, a photographer and art teacher, pours herself into helping the police to find the killer, analyzing crime scene photos and her own snapshots looking for clues. Then strange things start to happen: Freaky phone calls. A slide showing the fleeing robber shows up in her carousel at the college. What's going on here?
This all abruptly grinds to a halt, though, when Harrison cuts to a new vignette, with Cox reliving the event a slightly different way. Then it starts up again, only this time she goes into the store with Hugh. What really happened?
Harrison intends November to be a pondering on grief and guilt, setting up tantalizing backstory about Sophie cheating on Hugh, giving us shots of their early romance, and sickening Sophie with phantom headaches that her therapist (Nora Dunn) and mother (Anne Archer) like to diagnose. But Harrison reveals that he's ultimately more intent on showing off camera trickery -- which is admittedly cool -- and setting the mood with a washed-out color palette and a vaguely dystopian cityscape. (Why someone like Sophie would ever stop at a convenience store in what looks like Compton will have to remain a mystery.)
Though Cox and LeGros both do well with the material, after the first "reset," the plot machinations quickly get tired, as is common in movies like this, which take a small story and give it multiple retellings through alternate realities. By breaking the world of the original mystery and offering a variety of outcomes -- none of which are treated as The Truth -- it's hard to take any of them seriously. This extends, of course, to the film itself (barely over an hour in length), which ends up feeling a bit like a performance art piece with nothing much to say.
Cold November rain.