SISSY SPACEK renews an affair with her former high school sweetheart 15 years after the fact in "Violets Are Blue," a vapid romance with the same thrust as the '60s sugar-pop love song. Basically, the story reaffirms one of my favorite premises -- that everyone we've ever dated is still absolutely crazy about us.
Never mind that pesky wife and kid.
Kevin Kline is at his cuddly-wuddliest as Spacek's old flame, a happily married small-town journalist belatedly committed to saving Ocean City from more condominiums. A couple of construction workers object to his environmental posturing, but that's the movie's only pretense of depth. Otherwise, it is the complete soft-focus love-fest. There's petting under the boardwalk, surfside sex and much rocking of the sailboat.
The couple are creative, prettily posed like freckled spoons upon the dunes. The ponies of Assateague graze beside their driftwood fire and the waves slush in and slush out. It's like visual Musak, not an unpleasant experience but overwhelmingly inane. And you know the chemistry's low when you start thinking about the sand in their shorts and other technicalities.
Jack Fisk, who made his directorial debut with his wife Spacek in "Raggedy Man," directs this gauzy feature from Naomi Foner's sugar-is-sweet screenplay. It begins with a schooldays flashback that shows the young lovers as they set out on disparate paths, which they re-evaluate so ineffectually here.
He wanted to be a big-time journalist, but a shotgun wedding brought a conventional life -- spacious beach house, smart son and lovely wife. Spacek turned out to be the famous one, an internationally known photographer fresh from an exciting assignment in war-torn Belfast. But life is empty. She doesn't even have a cat.
Kline must choose between the adventurous Spacek and his comfortable wife -- Bonnie Bedelia of "Heart Like a Wheel." But the ending's never in doubt, as predictable as the tide going out and Kline's helpless infidelity. It doesn't help much that Spacek's next assignment takes her to Beirut.
Bedelia and John Kellogg, as Spacek's dad, do rise above the skimpy material to create real folks, the kind you care about. But the leads are as insubstantial as cotton candy as they snuggle through the obligatory montage of boardwalk rides. It is a shameful waste of these performers' strong and varied talents.
"Violets Are Blue," we don't love you.