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



Few things are as disheartening to a film critic as seeing good actors trapped in something like Chlorine. I was really excited to see this film. Its stars are the very talented Vincent D'Onofrio, Kyra Sedgwick, and Tom Sizemore, and the plot sounded like it offered the possibility of real depth, especially in light of the current economic climate. As the movie progressed, though, that sinking feeling got increasingly worse, and by the end, I was left only with questions. How did this happen? Was this movie supposed to be something other than what it finally became?

D'Onofrio plays Roger Lent, a mild-mannered family man whose wife, Georgie (Sedgwick), is obsessed with appearing hip and cool, and also with keeping up with the proverbial Joneses. The family is not a happy one. Roger gets passed over for a promotion at the bank where he works again. Daughter Cynthia (Flora Cross) is becoming isolated. Then there's Henry (Ryan Donowho), their dolt son who spontaneously launches into weird, incoherent ramblings about fireflies and other inane stuff. Georgie believes that increasing the family's social standing will bring the happiness their rich friends seem to have, so she pushes Roger to invest in a shaky real estate deal. This involves the slightly unethical use of someone else's money. Sizemore plays the foreman at the housing development Roger invests in; he repeatedly and shamelessly cuts corners, adding to the problem. For some reason, way too much time is spent following yet another character, a pervy tennis instructor who has only minimal relevance to the plot.

Chlorine is lacking in just about everything: wit, dramatic momentum, cohesion, and so on. This is not a story so much as just a series of scenes, many of which don't appear to have a whole lot of connection to each other. Everything feels disjointed, as though assembled from the leftover parts of other movies. Compounding that problem is the fact that Chlorine doesn't clue us in on how we're supposed to view these characters, and that confuses the film itself. They don't say or do anything funny, so it clearly isn't a comedy. They don't really have many substantive interactions with each other, so it's not exactly a drama, either. In fact, the characters are all shallow and obnoxious, which makes watching them an unpleasant experience. Granted, that may be the point, but for a movie to make shallow, obnoxious characters work, they have to be interestingly shallow and obnoxious. The Lents are not interesting.

There are some very potentially compelling themes at play here, involving the dangers of taking risks in the current financial market, and in the pointlessness of comparing one's own wealth to that of others. Writer/director Jay Alaimo and co-writer Matt Fiorello don't structure the plot to bring those themes out, though. Instead, they fill it with all the usual indie-movie cliches about eccentric, unhappy families. Chlorine then ends with a desperate We don't know what to do payoff that undermines any message the movie might potentially have to deliver.

D'Onofrio, Sedgewick, and Sizemore are all as good as they can be with substandard material, as is Dreama Walker, playing the high school girl the tennis instructor is continually trying to seduce. They are, however, trapped in a wildly underdeveloped film whose technical credits direction, cinematography, editing are unimpressive. Chlorine made me sad, and even a little angry. This cast deserves so much better.

( out of four)

Chlorine is unrated, but contains adult language and some mild sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.

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