As he skids (in slow motion) towards certain impact, the movie puts his fate on hold. In a series of flashbacks, it's time to learn about Gere's life up to this point. What we discover is not pretty: Despite a marriage to Sharon Stone, and an extramarital affair with Lolita Davidovich, Gere is leading the dullest existence a one-dimensional character could ever suffer. Death is going to be a blessing for this guy.
Gere heads a prestigious architecture firm, which he co-owns with beautiful, talented Stone. He has a lovely 13-year-old daughter (Jenny Morrison) who dances ballet. He has recently left this marriage of 16 years for an affair with beautiful, talented magazine writer Davidovich, but he can't completely make the jump.
"You're supposed to have everything under one roof -- Architecture 101," says Gere's business associate Martin Landau, in the first of several cheap architectural metaphors.
Should Gere stay with the wife or the mistress? Which enormous, multimillion-dollar house should he live in -- and which beautiful movie actress should he keep in it? Please stop me when you care.
This glossy-magazine conceit of a story was written by Marshall Brickman and David Rayfiel, who have scripted their share of good movies in the past, but whose turkey credits ("Lovesick" and "Simon" by Brickman; "Havana" by Rayfield) seem more significant here.
Basing their shopworn skills on a French novel and Claude Sautet adaptation -- the 1970 "Les Choses de la Vie" ("The Things of Life") -- they construct a three-way affair that lacks the courage of its conventionality. An inept clutter of themes about wasted lives and that whole yuppie-spiritual-cellular-phone-existence thing, not to mention thirdhand, as-I-lay-dying borrowings from "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and "Jacob's Ladder," it isn't a journey through a man's life, it's a roadblock.
The events, directed unimaginatively by Mark ("On Golden Pond") Rydell, lie there like dead building blocks of exposition. During an early courtship scene, a younger Stone has an efficient quickie with Gere in her parents' house. "Come on," she whispers, worried about being discovered. "Hurry up."
In another flashback scene -- later in the marriage -- Gere's trying to seduce his wife when the phone rings. He begs her not to answer it. Worried that it might be a business call, she answers it. Are we clear on the state of this relationship?
As for the Davidovich affair, it's so hackneyed that if you cared about Gere at all, you'd pray for him to return to his wife. He first meets Davidovich at an auction, when they get into a bidding battle over an antique clock. Gere wins but has to shell out $500 for the victory. Intrigued, he follows her to a restaurant. He plops into the seat next to her and tells her he's sure he recognizes her. Turns out, yes, he recalls that she writes a magazine column. She's impressed.
"Are you sorry I sat down?" asks Gere.
Out here in the audience, Richard. Very sorry.
Oh, the even sorrier moments in this movie! Like the time a drunken Davidovich boisterously crashes Gere's museum-dedication ceremony, attended by Stone and their daughter. Excellent shouting scene, Lolita.
Then there's the movie's attempt to be allegorical. Pulling over from the drive that will culminate in the crash, Gere debates whether to post a break-up letter to Davidovich. Instead, he leaves a marriage proposal on her answering machine. As he stands, Gere-like, in the middle of nowhere, a chiseled milkman (the kind you find in Canadian beer commercials) shows up, accompanied by his granddaughter.
"Are you lost?" asks the old man.
He's lost all right -- in himself, as he squints sensitively downward, carrying the torment of too much sex, money and real estate in his soul. Soon it will be time to return to the present. But the real question is not whether Gere lives. It's whether -- after sitting though this two-hour movie -- there's still time in our lives to do something enjoyable.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company