To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday
This rather bland film about recovering from grief covers no new ground.
David Lewis (Peter Gallagher) lost his wife, Gillian (Michelle Pfieffer), two years
earlier in a freak boating accident. Now, on the anniversary of her
death, and also her 37th birthday, his family gathers
to help him celebrate the occasion, and hopefully get over
Gillian. What they don't know is that he visits Gillian's ghost
nightly on the beach. It's never really made clear whether her ghost
is actually appearing to David, or if he is just plain bonkers.
Anyhow, David's meddling sister-in-law, Esther (Kathy Baker), wants
David to return to normal, or she'll go to court to take custody of
David's neglected daughter Rachel (Claire Danes). Esther's husband, Paul (Bruce Altman),
doesn't agree with her actions, but he's all talk and no action. Esther
and Paul have brought along a blind date (Wendy Crewson) for David, but
she mainly lingers in the background, and we never get to know much about
her. In fact, we never get to know much about anyone, particularly the
title character. Gillian seems to have only one character trait: she's
beautifully perfect, which, although well done by Pfeiffer, hardly
fleshes her out for the audience. The film itself is almost as shallow.
The conflict is mostly artificial; why is David's situation so terrible?
In forcing the issue, the film is a meddling as Esther, its most unappealing character.
There are a couple of gimmicky situations, and a few lines of acerbicly
witty dialogue from Altman, but really there's not much to recommend this film.
It has all the substance of a ghost.
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