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‘Tune in Tomorrow’ (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 02, 1990

Like a faraway radio station that taunts a traveler's dial, "Tune In Tomorrow" slips in and out of range, variously overpowered by static or clear as a whippoorwill's call. A tri-layered tale of love, creative impulses and dial-spinning, it comes and it goes, evocative and a little bit magical, flawed but forgivably so.

Peter Falk, in all his crumpled, cockeyed ingenuity, has the pivotal role of Pedro Carmichael, an eccentric scriptwriter who turns WXBU's genteel, ratings-starved soap opera, "Kings of the Garden District," into New Orleans's most-listened-to afternoon delight. Though he thinks of himself as a great genius, Pedro plagiarizes the privacy of those around him, writing his soap opera in their very words.

Keanu Reeves, hair slick with pomade, face fresh as dew on magnolias, plays the sapling Martin Loader, an aspiring writer whose love for his older Aunt Julia (Barbara Hershey) stirs Pedro's creative juices in a big way. An incestuous theme is immediately introduced into the soap opera, which has its own cast led by Elizabeth McGovern, Buck Henry and John Larroquette.

Adapted from Mario Vargas-Llosa's novel "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter," the movie moves gracefully between dimensions, though the May-December affair between the 36-year-old Julia and the 21-year-old Martin is its driving force. Hershey, eyebrows thick with mascara, lips luscious with collagen, is a hard case who eschews Martin's advances with the shield of her sarcasm. "I'm looking for a dull man for a change," she says, "with a heart condition, and rich." Martin's steady suit and effusive romanticism eventually prevail over Julia's common sense and the practical needs of her old age when Pedro plays cupid, both to help the lovers and to move his own story line forward.

Jon Amiel directs from William Boyd's witty but overextended screenplay, which is faithful to the spirit if not the word of the novel. Amiel, applauded for his BBC series "The Singing Detective," is singularly suited to directing on several dimensions, handling the scriptwriter's fancies as he did the detective's dreams. But he allows Falk, a dangerously fractious force, to wrest the story away from the boy and his aunt, the true protagonists.

Reeves and Hershey benefit from the overgrown, humid atmosphere of the Deep South setting, where sexual attraction flourishes like Spanish moss. "You could almost be my son," she says. "So, I've almost got an Oedipus complex," he says. A more likely pairing than Susan Sarandon and James Spader of "White Palace," they do convince us that May loves December even if the bloom is off the boomer.

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