Film review: Sunday

Published: Friday, Sept. 19 1997 12:01 a.m. MDT

Some movies make you want to laugh. Some make you want to cry. Others still make you want to take a shower afterwards. Lump "Sunday" into the latter category.

The Grand Jury Award winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival, this weird drama/mystery is so seedy and so creepy it may leave a bad aftertaste in the mouths of some audiences. Also, the film's characters aren't exactly the most sympathetic ones you're likely to run across.

Nonetheless, the film still succeeds on the strength of its two leads, David Suchet and Lisa Harrow, as well as the fact that director Jonathan Nossiter succeeds in making us care — to some small extent, admittedly — about what happens to them.

"Sunday" starts off oddly, following Oliver (Suchet), a downsized tax accountant as he wakes up in a homeless shelter in Queens, N.Y. While taking a Sunday morning stroll, he encounters Madeleine Vesey (Harrow), an unemployed actress who mistakes him for Matthew Delacorta, a famous film director she once worked with.

Capitalizing on the mistake, Oliver lets Madeleine take him to lunch. However, by doing so, he gets dragged into her strange existence. After accompanying her back to her townhouse, Oliver attempts to tell her the truth, but she won't have any of it.

Perhaps flattered by her attention, he makes a fumbling attempt to woo her, and as she cleans up, he meets Madeleine's volatile ex-husband, Ben (Larry Pine), who tells Oliver that he's not the first homeless man Madeleine has brought back to her home.

Though he storms out of the house in a huff, Oliver eventually returns under the guise of retrieving his jacket, and he and Madeleine proceed to get much, much more intimate.

In addition to the strange main storyline, Nossiter peppers his film with intriguing glimpses at some of the shelter's other residents, including Ray (Jared Harris), who has taken an instant disliking to Oliver, and another man who performs karaoke-styled operas in subway train stations.

Nossiter also effectively conveys a feeling of foreboding and dread before each of the film's confrontational scenes, although some of his technical aspects are lacking (such as continuity problems with the outside weather conditions in certain shots).

Helping greatly are Suchet and Harrow's marvelous performances. The English-born Suchet, who plays Hercule Poirot on the PBS "Mystery" series, perfects his New York accent and ultimately makes Oliver seem somewhat sympathetic — despite the shocking revelation at the film's end.

"Sunday" is not rated but would receive at least an R for abundant profanity, sex, full-frontal nudity, some vulgar references and scenes and a few scattered racial epithets.

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