Eddie Quinn (played by Sean Penn) is a loyal and caring but unpredictable, violent and disturbed young man. He is married to the love of his life, Maureen (by Robin Wright Penn) and they live together in a rough part of the city. As he does from time to time, Eddie has disappeared and Maureen is alone. In her boredom and loneliness, she shares a couple of drinks with her neighbour, Kiefer (by James Gandolfini), but they drink too much and he rapes her. Maureen is spaced out and doesn’t care about anything except that Eddie will freak out if he sees her all beaten up. This is the state of their turbulent and volatile relationship. When he turns up, they easily get back together and return to their violent and emotion-charged lives. Eddie wants to get to the bottom of the bruises but as he can’t accept Maureen’s explanation he becomes violent and manic. In fear for her life, Maureen calls the authorities and Eddie is taken away to a mental institution. Ten years later, Eddie is due to be released – in the meantime, Maureen has divorced him, married Joey (by John Travolta) and had children. Eddie doesn’t realise how long he’s been away and all he wants is Maureen and his old life back.
This movie presents an interesting dilemma. The premise is fascinating, but the way the movie is presented makes it all seem like a fluff piece and a bit of a waste of time. However, it isn’t – don’t dismiss this movie on the basis of the seemingly pointless plot … there is excellent emotion, complex dialogue, simmering violence and unpredictable actions throughout the drama, with outstanding performances by all three key characters. In particular, Sean Penn is outstanding as the disturbed Eddie Quinn – he is truly awesome. Robin Wright Penn is stunning as the drug addled, confused and earnest Maureen, she brings such passion to the role, it’s amazing – and John Travolta’s Joey is exactly how Travolta is when he is at his total best … he’s a New Jersey would-be thug, who’s slick and well groomed, short on brains, but long on bravado. Eddie’s two best friends – Tony “Shorty” Russo (by Harry Dean Stanton) and Lucinda (by Susan Taylor) – are marvellous and totally entertaining. They both behave exactly as you would expect New Jersey sidekicks to behave. There is comedy in all these performances which is great – but the relationships, emotions and passions are authentic and they are what make the movie quite a stunner. However, I would note that some of the verbal interactions between the adults and Maureen’s eldest daughter are a surprise and some viewers may question their appropriateness.
Sean Penn was awarded “Best Actor” at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for his performance in this movie which comes as no surprise.
Made in 1997. Directed by Nick Cassavetes