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Film review: Cherish

Published: Friday, July 5 2002 9:12 a.m. MDT

The so-goofy-it's-hip soundtrack of "Cherish" features hits from the '60s, '70s and the new-wave '80s — and yes, it does include the treacly title track by the Association.

And the film isn't half-bad, either.

While "Cherish" doesn't completely survive its tonal transformation from dark comedy to suspense thriller, it's got just enough charm and appealing character quirks to forgive that still serious problem.

The movie also deserves points for providing a starring vehicle for Robin Tunney, an underrated actress who deserves better material than she's been given (after impressing in 1997's "Niagara, Niagara," she's been consigned to such major-studio duds as "End of Days" and "Vertical Limit").

Here, Tunney stars as Zoe Adler, a socially awkward computer animator with a love for cheesy music (among her favorites are songs by Hall and Oates, 10cc, the Human League, as well as "Seasons in the Sun").

However, her shyness has rendered her incapable of sustaining personal relations, though she does share some common ground with her dream man and co-worker Andrew Barber (Jason Priestley, parodying his former pin-up boy status).

The plot kicks in when she's carjacked by a mysterious stalker, and in the struggle mows down a cop, with fatal consequences. Unfortunately, the real culprit gets away, leaving Zoe to take the rap. Her attorney (Nora Dunn) tries to delay the emotionally charged trial as long as possible, which means Zoe will remain under lock-and-key, but rather than imprisonment, the fragile young woman is confined to a rundown apartment and forced to wear an electronic "bracelet" on her ankle.

It may be an odd premise, but it leads to moments of gold, including Zoe's friendship with her wheelchair-bound downstairs neighbor (Ricardo Gil). And as ludicrous as it might sound, the odd pairing of Tunney and hangdog-faced Tim Blake Nelson, who plays the deputy overseeing her incarceration, really works.

But writer/director Finn Taylor doesn't really seem to know where to take the material from there — demonstrated by the scene in which Zoe races to get home, a bit that seems all too familiar (the throbbing techno score resembles the German-language cult hit "Run Lola Run").

"Cherish" is rated R for violence (a pair of beatings, as well as some vehicular mayhem), occasional use of strong sex-related profanity, brief sex (mostly overheard), brief gore, use of crude sexual slang terms and fleeting female nudity. Running time: 100 minutes.


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