Twilight - * * *

Twilight

Robert Benton has assembled a stellar, mature cast for his latest feature, Twilight, a film noir mystery set amid the fading stars of Hollywood.

Paul Newman stars as retired detective Harry Ross. Harry has spent the last couple of years doing odd jobs for Jack and Catherine Ames (Gene Hackman and Susan Sarandon), a pair of married actors who have fallen from the limelight.

When Jack sends him on a routine delivery job, however, the old instincts kick in. Soon, Harry is wading through a mystery where friendships and lives are on the line, and he no longer knows who to trust.

There are plenty of familiar faces throughout Twilight, in addition to Newman, Hackman and Sarandon. James Garner plays Raymond Hope, a former cop and one of Harry’s best friends. Stockard Channing plays Verna, Harry’s former partner, and possibly a former love interest. Reese Witherspoon is Mel, the distrustful daughter of the Ames’, and Liev Schrieber is her scuzzy boyfriend. Giancarlo Esposito appears as Harry’s bumbling detective protégé, and John Spencer is a suspicious police captain.

With a cast like that, it’s almost worth watching Twilight just to stargaze. Luckily, there’s more to the film than some sort of actor’s recognition ceremony. Twilight has a solid film noir-ish plot. It may not have as many twists and turns as some of the classics, but it has much more than a lot of what passes for film these days.

The major cast members all deliver strong performances, as can be expected of their caliber. However, none of them have that little extra oomph which would make them memorable. The supporting cast is enjoyable, if a little underdrawn. Stockard Channing’s character, in particular, is a cipher. There’s more to her character than the film takes the time to describe. It’s a minor, but irritating, flaw.

With a solid cast, and a good plot, there’s a lot to recommend about Twilight. It’s biggest flaw is actually its short running time. At a slim 94 minutes, there’s a lot of stuff that’s packed into an awfully small package. Still, the chance to see Newman, Sarandon and Hackman working together is worth a cramp or two.

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