Just-Right Portrayals Validate `Love' Interest

By Arnold, Gary | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 13, 1998 | Go to article overview

Just-Right Portrayals Validate `Love' Interest


Arnold, Gary, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


"Love and Death on Long Island," exclusively at the Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle, incorporates a number of playful literary allusions while purporting to be the recollection of a man of letters. A man of letters named Death, sort of. His chronicle begins with a symbolically witty shot: The camera glides into the darkness of one mailbox and then emerges from another.

Giles De'Ath, pronounced "Day-oth" and brilliantly impersonated by John Hurt, seems to have cultivated a reputation as the most reclusive British author of his generation. In certain respects, De'Ath might as well be dead. "I must get around to reading one of your books," a friend remarks absent-mindedly. "There never seem to be enough hours in the day."

Giles can boast of having sustained "no public life" for decades. Indeed, he has "made a forte of saying no" to requests for interviews. His life changes as a result of a chain of events that begins when he impulsively agrees to a radio interview. This break with a cloistered, solitary literary life sets up the widowed, out-of-it author for a rebirth of seriocomic proportions.

The radio host mentions the recent cycle of movies based on E.M. Forster novels. Like almost everything, this is news to Giles. Accidentally finding himself locked out of his Hampstead residence and caught in a rainstorm, Giles takes refuge in a movie theater. It happens to be playing an apocryphal Forster adaptation, "Eternal Moment."

Giles is unaware that a second attraction is also in an adjacent auditorium. The ticket teller assumes that this aging, tweedy, froggy-visaged gent had the other feature in mind, for reasons that become humorously prophetic in retrospect.

"This isn't Forster," Giles mutters while watching the horseplay that typifies a low-budget sex farce from the Hollywood fringe titled "Hotpants College II." He is about to leave when an unexpected vision stops him cold: the appearance of a young actor cast as a pizza delivery lad named Mikey.

It's love at first sight. The end credits reveal the name of this boyishly engaging, faraway source of enchantment: Ronnie Bostock. The very letters shimmer with halations as Giles first gazes at them. Ronnie is embodied to unassuming perfection by Jason Priestley, who ultimately materializes as Ronnie in the flesh to complete an inspired odd-couple mismatch with John Hurt.

From his moment of revelation, the smitten Giles is reinvigorated by romantic infatuation and obsession. One thing leads to another. He discovers fan magazines and starts to keep a scrapbook. He discovers an unknown world of modern electronics and consumerism in order to catch up with Ronnie's earlier features, available on home video. …

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