A Movie A Day #311: Crooked Hearts (1991, directed by Michael Bortman)


“The family is like a drug and we’re all junkies.”  So says Charley Warner (Vincent D’Onofrio), one of the many pissed off people at the center of Crooked Hearts.

Crooked Hearts is narrated by Charley’s younger brother, Tom (Peter Berg).  When Tom drops out of college, he returns home and discovers that Charley is still living with their parents, Edward (Peter Coyote) and Jill (Cindy Pickett).  Charley feels that he can only leave the family if Edward officially kicks him out but Edward refuses to give him the satisfaction of escape.  Instead, Edward throws parties to celebrate his children’s failures, all of which he can recite from memory.  Also caught up in this mess are the two youngest children, Ask (Noah Wyle) and Cassie (Juliette Lewis).  Cassie is narcoleptic and Ask has a list of very important rules that everyone must follow to be happy, including always making sure that your socks match your shirt.  By the end of the movie, one brother has set his own house on fire and another one is mercifully dead.

Tolstoy once said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” but he never got to see Crooked Hearts, a movie where everyone is unhappy in the most predictable way possible.  Aside from an overbaked script and underbaked director, Crooked Hearts does feature good performances from Peter Coyote and Vincent D’Onofrio but Peter Berg is boring as the monotonous narrator and Noah Wyle tries too hard to be eccentric.  I watched Crooked Hearts because Jennifer Jason Leigh was in it but Leigh’s role was small and could have just as easily been played by Mary Stuart Masterson, Penelope Ann Miller, Mary-Louise Parker or any of the other three-name actresses of the early 90s.  Family may be addictive but this movie is not.

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