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The Family Filmgoer

By Jane Horwitz
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, April 22, 2005; Page WE37

THE INTERPRETER (PG-13, 135 minutes)

Perhaps it was the solemn responsibility of being the first feature film ever granted permission to use the interior of the United Nations in New York as a key location, but "The Interpreter" translates into a surprisingly ponderous thriller. Teens fascinated by world affairs will find much to chew on, but thrills aren't the main course in this overwritten tale of a U.N. interpreter (Nicole Kidman) who overhears an assassination plot and the Secret Service agent (Sean Penn) who tries to discern whether she's trustworthy. Director Sydney Pollack seems more interested in the quiet, earnest (and occasionally interminable) moments when the characters speak about the mission of the U.N. and the strife in developing African countries. The "thrills" feel like afterthoughts and a strong performance by Penn as a widower burying his grief in work (while Kidman seems stiff and mannered) can't carry the film over its endless talk and bumpy plot holes.

Film includes moments of lethal violence, some of it graphic for a PG-13. A prologue set in Africa shows adolescent boys committing two gun murders and a makeshift morgue full of other victims. Later, a terrorist explosion occurs on a New York street. The movie also shows murder by suffocation and stabbing and the bloody aftermath of a suicide. It includes mid-range profanity, sexual innuendo (from scantily clad dancers, but their gyrations are not graphic), and drinking.

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A LOT LIKE LOVE (PG-13, 97 minutes)

"A Lot Like Love" aims to be this decade's "When Harry Met Sally." Alas, co-stars Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet are too bland (though Peet has shown real acting chops elsewhere) and not nearly as comically mismatched as Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan were in the earlier film. Nor does the pallid script provide any stellar I'll-have-what-she's-having moments. Yet the generic cuteness and wit built into this tale of ill-timed encounters between a young man and woman over several years has enough appeal to make it an okay high-school date flick.

In this case the PG-13 rating is misleading. Many parents will judge "A Lot Like Love" to be too sexually charged for middle-schoolers, with its story of sexually active twentysomething singles, pairing off and breaking up in search of fulfillment in love and career. It begins with a strongly implied (nothing graphic shown) mile-high tryst in an airplane restroom. In addition to that opening gambit, the film contains other strong verbal and visual sexual innuendo, a steamy sexual encounter with semi-nudity in a station wagon (though the film cuts away before it becomes explicit), occasional profanity, crude language, drinking and smoking.

That airplane tryst is how Oliver (Kutcher) and Emily (Peet) meet. They exchange a smile in the airport and then in the cabin. When he goes to the lavatory, Emily, the initiator, follows him in for some anonymous sex. Later, she puts him off when he tries to strike up an acquaintance, not wanting to "ruin" it. Yet, every year or so Oliver and Emily seem to find each other and inch closer to realizing they are soul mates. Each time they reconnect they've both changed -- lost a lover, or gained one, lost a career or started a new one.

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