Simpatico delivers shallow characters

By Stephanie Foster

Simpatico is a prize-winning horse, a symbol of beauty and prosperity, which contrasts this film’s characters, whose sin-filled pasts come back to haunt them. Unfortunately, the only other thing haunting about Simpatico is the wasted two hours it takes to watch it. Completely devoid of intelligence, wit or insight, Simpatico is a truly dismal film.

The film begins with Vincent (Nick Nolte), looking more disheveled than usual as a down-and-out drunk. Vincent makes a frantic call to his old buddy Lyle (Jeff Bridges), demanding he take leave of his thoroughbreds, sprawling Kentucky estate, and wife Rosie (Sharon Stone) to help him out of a jam. Since Vinnie has evidence of a blackmail scam Lyle was involved in, he obliges.

When Lyle arrives in California, Vinnie tells him a check-out girl he loves, Cecilia (Catherine Keener), has pressed harassment charges against him, and he needs Lyle to convince Cecilia to drop them. While Lyle is in Cecilia’s apartment making some interesting discoveries, Vinnie steals Lyle’s car and plane ticket and makes his way to Kentucky with a shoebox of nasty photographs.

The plot then spirals right out of control. Lyle promises Cecilia tickets to the Kentucky Derby if she’ll go straighten Vinnie out. The movie becomes even more ridiculous when Lyle, in a span of 48 hours, becomes Vinnie. He forsakes all grooming rituals, drinks in seedy bars and shuffles along the railroad tracks.

Simpatico obviously wants to make the point that even a powerful man can fall apart when he is no longer holding the cards. However, it tries to make the point in an extremely laboured and implausible manner.

These scenes are laughable; it just looks like a millionaire who refuses to buy a plane ticket home or a bar of Irish Spring.

Simpatico passes itself off as an enigma that will slowly unravel, yet the only revelation in the film is when Nolte takes a shower. First time director Matthew Warchus is at the helm, and he and David Nicholls adapted Sam Shepard’s play for the screen. The screenplay is lacklustre, offering up dialogue like, "high stakes, broken hearts."

The acting also leaves a lot to be desired. Nolte spends the movie growling and drinking, and Bridges looks like he doesn’t want to be there (who could blame him?). Keener, who was sharp in Being John Malkovich, falls flat.

Albert Finney stars as a man from the past, but even a veteran actor can’t save this movie. Stone, for her little time onscreen, does her best Blanche DuBois. There is nothing memorable about Simpatico. When the lights come up, it thankfully fades away.

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