The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


All I Wish

Sharon Stone was 59 when she played a 46-year-old for the new film All I Wish, and I say, more power to her. The actress still has the playfully sultry appeal that made her star-making work in 1992's Basic Instinct iconic. That same quality is essential for this romantic-comedy. She's terrific, and while the movie deserves credit for giving her a strong role, it suffers from failing to rise to her level.

Stone plays Senna, a relatively aimless, pot-smoking, commitment-phobic woman celebrating her birthday. She wakes up next to some anonymous guy she met, then visits her mother (Ellen Burstyn), deals with work issues, and celebrates with best friend Darla (Liza Lapira). During the party, she meets Adam (Tony Goldwyn), a Boston attorney who has just moved to L.A. They have a rocky first encounter. Then the movie jumps ahead to her next birthday, where she goes through the same series of events, once again ending in another, slightly better, encounter with Adam. This cycle repeats throughout, showing us how, over the course of multiple years, their relationship develops.

Stone has never quite had the career that she deserved. Her acclaimed work in Basic Instinct didn't translate to the greatest of follow-up roles. Filmmakers either didn't know what to do with her or completely misused her talents. Juicy parts would occasionally come her way, as in Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers and Albert Brooks' The Muse. By and large, though, she got trapped in junk like Catwoman, Cold Creek Manor, and Last Dance.

With All I Wish, she finally has another role she can sink her teeth into. Stone is clearly having a blast playing a middle-aged woman struggling to pull herself together. She's thoroughly alive in this movie, displaying utter charm as Senna while simultaneously making the character's trainwreck quality feel real.

Beyond her performance and Goldwyn's good supporting work the picture is flat and uninspired. The story behind All I Wish explains precisely what's wrong with it. This part was originally written for a 25-year-old actress. Stone was asked to play the mother. Instead, she lobbied writer/director Susan Walter for the lead, arguing that it would be more interesting to show a middle-aged woman trying to get her life together. So far, so good. The problem comes in the fact that the screenplay doesn't appear to have been re-written to accommodate an older character. Senna and Adam are surrounded by people younger than they are, and they behave in incredibly immature ways. Yes, that might be part of the point but, as weird as it may sound, the immaturity needs to be more age-appropriate.

Certainly, people in their mid- to late-'40s would have accumulated some sort of wisdom. Adam and Senna feel as though stuck in perpetual post-adolescence. Several sequences in All I Wish are downright silly because the central figures seem way too old to be so clueless. The most painful example is an overlong bit in which Adam locks his clothes and keys in his car and, searching for a phone, enters a karaoke bar wearing a pair of swim trunks way too small for him. Rather than finding something to cover up with or sending her in alone -- he allows Senna to goad him onstage for a song. In this scene and others like it, having empathy for the characters is virtually impossible because they behave like total idiots. Any ostensible comedic value is sucked away.

Elsewhere, the Groundhog Day style of watching Senna repeat the same birthday chores again and again quickly grows tiresome. Instead of creating a flow that we can get sucked into, the stop-and-start rhythm just serves to push us away. Then there's the little fact that All I Wish has nothing new or meaningful to say about relationships. If you can't figure out where this story is heading within the first fifteen minutes, you've never seen a rom-com before.

Watching Sharon Stone really shine once more is a cause for celebration. Let's just hope that she gets to do so again soon in a far better picture.

( 1/2 out of four)

All I Wish is rated R for sexual content, some drug use, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.

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