She’s So Lovely - * * 1/2*

She’s So Lovely boasts a superior cast, excellent characterizations, and a good opening. However, with direction as muddled as the minds of its lead characters, the film ultimately loses sight of where it wants to go.

Maureen (Robin Wright Penn) and Eddie (Sean Penn) are a couple made for each other. Eddie is a mentally disturbed con man, and Maureen is his saner pregnant wife. Both are hard drinking aimless lowlifes who find joy only in each other.

However, things aren’t destined well for the couple. After suspecting his wife had sex with another man (either with or against her will), Eddie is driven to the breaking point and snaps.

Flash forward ten years. Maureen has moved on with her life, divorcing Eddie and marrying Joey (John Travolta), the father of two of her three daughters. However, when Eddie comes around again, Maureen finds herself torn between her present duty and her past love.

The obvious strength of the film is its characters. Rough hewn and imperfect, the characterizations cry out for good actors, and they get them. Both Sean and Robin Wright Penn are superb as the lovestruck, but slightly crazy, couple. Travolta overcomes the hurdles of the film and makes Joey sympathetic.

And that underscores a problem with the film. On the surface it treats Joey like a bad guy. When you look deeper at his character, however, he’s not bad at all. In fact, the only reason he seems bad is that the film contrives it so, to heighten (or perhaps to ease) the conflict. Although this makes him an interesting character, the film doesn’t seem to be doing him justice, and seems intrusive rather than seamless.

Still, the powerhouse acting at work here would make She’s So Lovely worth seeing even if much more than the last third was unsatisfying.

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