Ties to Rachel

Interweaving three stories, the lyrical small-town drama, Ties to Rachel, is an ambitiously original but not entirely successful attempt to endow the screen with literary properties better suited for a more complex novel. Jon Resnik's beautifully-shot feature directorial debut aims to comment on love, loss, and desire, but its texture comes across as pretentious–and a bit dull–which should limit theatrical possibilities and relegate the film to the festival circuit.

A montage of three intertwined narratives, all linked to the hauntingly elusive image of a beautiful girl named Rachel (Arija Bareikas), the philosophically inclined Ties to Rachel is set in a small New England town, where change occurs at a peculiar speed and the slowness of life has a bizarre impact on all the residents. Told in flashback, the first story centers on The Champ (Adrian Pasdar), an itinerant boxer who believes he is responsible for the accidental death of his pushy, overzealous manager, Hervy (Bill Raymond). Torn by grief and guilt, the boxer now struggles to return to the pure emotions he recalls having in his imagined love for Rachel.

Bucyrus (George Dickerson), the protagonist of the second tale, is a madman whose anguish over the loss of his wife has evolved into a violent hostility that often lands him at the local jail. A loner, his strongest anger is targeted at his adult son, Lester (Tim Hopper) in a series of manic, overtly sexual calls, which are meant to alienate Lester from his wife Millie (Ellen Parker), a totally numbed TV-addict. Bucyrus' craziness is furthered by his hallucinatory glimpses of Rachel, who he believes is the exact replica of his deceased wife.

In the third yarn, Deke (Joanna Adler), a fallen minister who was defrocked for her lesbianism, develops a special friendship with a quiet boy (Arthur Bridgers). As the proprietor of the repair shop, Deke comes into contact with–and knows the secrets of–most of the residents who pass through her place. Too bright for her own good, and slightly paranoid, she delivers long (often boring) monologues to her silent companion about her elaborate plan to expose the town's darker side, which, of course, is related to Rachel.

Set for the most part in the woods and roads of a gorgeously looking small town, pic lends a heightened sense of claustrophobia to the story, emphasizing the similarities in the ways the inhabitants deal with their daily chores and survival, despite disparate occupations and personalities. A moody and evocative work, Ties to Rachel contains some ravishing visual sights and silent, spiritual moments, in which the characters contemplate their existence. But the pacing is too slow and the philosophical intent too self-conscious for viewers to get involved in the fractured, multi-layerd story. A further problem is the rather late appearance in the game of the narrative's emotional payoff.

That said, the film's technical credits are impressive, particularly Garrett Fisher's sharp lensing and Michael Krantz' authentic production design. The ensemble is uniformly adequate, though it's hard to single out individual performances; pic is more of a literary than acting showcase.

A Counterproductions presentation in association with Ocelot Films. Produced by D.J. Paul. Executive producers, Pietro Cuevas, Todd Lippiatt, Betsy Morris, Louis Marz. Directed by Jon Resnik. Screenplay, Bear Kirkpatrick, Resnik. Camera (color), Garrett Fisher; editor, Daniel J. Rosen; music, Ben Wilborn; production design, Michael Krantz; sound, Boaz Azmon; casting, Susan Shopmaker.

Reviewed at the Raleigh studios (In L.A. Indie Film Festival), L.A., Mar. 25, 1997. Running time: 105 min.

The Champ….Adrian Pasdar
Bucyrus…George Dickerson
Deke……….Joanna Adler
Boy……..Arthur Bridgers
Hervy………Bill Raymond
Lester……….Tim Hopper
Millie……..Ellen Parker
Rachel……Arija Bareikas
Leah………..Molly Price