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'Addicted to Love': Hell Hath No Fury, Like Meg Ryan

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 23, 1997

 




Director:
Griffin Dunne
Cast:
Matthew Broderick;
Tcheky Karyo;
Kelly Preston;
Meg Ryan
Running Time:
1 hour, 55 minutes
R
Under 17 restricted


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What becomes of the brokenhearted? Sometimes they turn forlorn and sometimes they turn savage. "Addicted to Love" examines both possibilities. It even mates them.

It's a movie that has nothing nice to say about anybody. Far from the romp its ads make it appear to be, it's misanthropic, cruel, hostile, corrupt, blasphemous and basically pretty evil. I loved it.

Though that is indeed Meg Ryan, her supreme cuddliness, in the starring role, her casting packs the movie's first concealed surprise. For the first time, Meg is not cute. Meg is not even good. Oh, no. Meg is bad. Meg wears a slather of mascara that encircles her eyes like whirlpools of rage, a biker's leathers and jeans so tight they seem like lethal weapons; that winking little jujube under her shirt seems to be her navel, open to the contemplation of the masses.She finds a way of moving aggressively through life that makes Spielberg's T-Rex seem like a social worker.

Ryan's Maggie has just learned the world's hardest lesson: You can't always get what you want. What she wanted was a hulky, hunky French restaurateur named Anton (played by Tcheky Karyo, of "La Femme Nikita") but he has dumped her for the blond Linda (Kelly Preston), a ripe peach ready for the plucking, who hails from the great unknown American interior.

If Maggie becomes an Ahab, madly circling the city on her Pequod of a motorcycle, hungry for hot vengeance, whom should she meet but a forlorn Ishmael floating disconsolately in the wreckage of his sunken relationship. Sam (Matthew Broderick) is a blubbery bit of quivering wuss who was Linda's hometown dumpee himself. He doesn't want vengeance, he wants comfort; he yearns for his old life and his old girlfriend.

Maggie uncovers a filthy and bewhiskered Sam cowering across the street from Anton and Linda's loft, recording data in his science geek's way, hoping to chart the end to Sam and Linda, hoping to reclaim that which he believes to be his. It's contempt at first sight: She seethes, he snivels. She's New York, he's out-of-town. She's edge, he's center.

The setting is SoHo, and I agree that it's unlikely that an abandoned loft would be sitting, undeveloped, right across the street from Anton's, not at those real estate prices. (But then, I doubt anyone would dump Ryan.) The setting, on the other hand, sets up the movie's central cleverness, as does Broderick's science nerd persona. He rigs a camera obscura, that archaic optical system that projects something lensed in the real world onto a screen or wall.

Obsessed, they somehow seem to enter images of their ex-lovers' lives and happiness. These images haunt them, huge on the walls of their stolen room, huger still on the walls of their fevered brains. Maggie's fury draws Sam's innocence in deeper, and they plot and scheme, quite evilly. Cockroaches. Infected strawberries. Planted panties. It occurs to Sam that Maggie is not trying merely to break up Anton and Linda but really to kill them.

Yet Sam knows -- the movie's saving grace, which keeps it from breaking the limit on the creep-o-meter -- how wrong, how sick, how desperate this all is. He's just powerless, first out of grief for Linda and then, before he knows it, out of love for Maggie.

The movie never really pulls back and becomes the safe little bourgeois film everybody would secretly prefer. It never sentimentalizes the madness it chronicles. It doesn't even apologize or make it right, not really. Like over-ripened Jules Pfeiffer, it celebrates its own aberrance, it loves its badness. If anything, the movie yields just a bit at the end, and becomes sort of nice (Ryan even takes off her mascara).

"Addicted to Love" feels related to no other film Meg Ryan has ever done, but far more of a piece with its director's past work. Griffin Dunne, the son of Dominick Dunne of Vanity Fair fame (Dominick even guest-shots as a food critic), has a penchant for the dark and the disturbed New York story. This one isn't just SoHo in setting, it's SoHo in gestalt; it's oh-so SoHo. Its direct antecedents are two films that Griffin Dunne starred in and that have seemed to influence his sensibility: the underrated "Search and Destroy" and the overrated "After Hours," both also about people madly committed to their own obsessional visions. The laughter it creates is genuine, but so is the unease.

Addicted to Love is rated R and features sexually suggestive scenes.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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