Film review: Angie

Published: Tuesday, March 8 1994 12:00 a.m. MST

Geena Davis fully inhabits "Angie" — both the movie and the title character, and if the film came a little later in the year she would be an Oscar nominee shoo-in.

But the movie itself is all over the map, never settling down long enough to allow the audience to embrace any particular element. This proves to be a particular debit when the film settles for a gooey, sentimental ending, which just doesn't ring true.

And that's too bad, since there is much to enjoy here — and Davis is so good that she alone makes the movie worth a look.

The character of Angie is a gum-snapping New Yorker, living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan at a magazine. She's undereducated but highly intelligent, yet feels unsettled and itchy for something to happen in her mundane life.

With a boyfriend she likes but doesn't love and a father who adores her but keeps secrets about Angie's missing mother (and a stepmother she's never been able to accept), Angie finally gets what she's looking for — though in a way she might not have chosen: She becomes pregnant.

Further complicating matters is her decision to have the baby without the father's participation, despite his fervent desire to marry her, and a new blossoming romance with a charming suitor, a goofy Irish attorney (Stephen Rea) who picks her up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

All of these elements are important but not central to Angie's internal conflict, which is really about coming to terms with having been abandoned as a child by her mother. And after awhile, it becomes apparent that "Angie" the film is really going to be a voyage of discovery, prompted by the birth of her own child.

Davis is superb as she embodies this character's every emotion, and the script calls for her to run the gamut: She is required to be funny, tragic, witty, sardonic and, in the end, content.

But getting there isn't as much fun as it should be, largely because the filmmakers can't settle on a tone. The attempt to blend comedy and serious drama is uneven at best and there are uncomfortable transitions between the two. There are also too many false notes, as with the over-the-top, tempestuous relationship of another couple, Angie's best friend and her loutish husband.

Director Martha Coolidge ("Ramblin' Rose") and screenwriter/actor Todd Graff (who adapted Avra Wing's novel, "Angie, I Says") work up a good head of steam about some subjects but seem at sea with others. Worse, the final quarter feels extremely rushed, when they apparently sense that everything needs to be wrapped up in a hurry.

Still, it's hard to deny that at the core of all this is a knockout performance by Davis, and the supporting cast is also uncommonly good. Just don't go in expecting too much.

"Angie" is rated R for considerable profanity and vulgarity, along with sex, nudity and some violence.