Monday, October 24, 2016

Movie Review: "A Simple Twist of Fate" (1994)

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Movie"A Simple Twist of Fate"
Director: Gillies MacKinnon
Year: 1994
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

After his divorce, Michael McCann (Steve Martin) becomes a recluse, closed off from the world, only caring about his collection of solid gold coins. When his collection of coins is stolen, he finds a new purpose in life when an orphaned little girl wanders into his home one snowy night.

Directed by Gilles MacKinnon, "A Simple Twist of Fate" is written by and stars Steve Martin, and is inspired by the novel "Silas Marner" by George Elliot. Steve Martin plays Michael McCann, a teacher whose life is turned asunder when he learns not only is his wife having an affair, but the baby she is carrying is not his, and that she is leaving him for the baby's father. This causes Michael to fall into a deep, dark funk where he becomes an angry recluse who only finds pleasure in hoarding solid gold coins. Two things happen in a short period that completely change his life. First, his gold coins are stolen one night, and second, a little girl whose drug addict mother has just died wanders into Michael's house and into his life life a tiny little wrecking ball. It's a rather long series of tragedies that result in something quite heartwarming as Michael and his now newly adopted daughter Mathilda learn to love each other over the years just like any father and daughter would.

Steve Martin does a stellar job transitioning from stodgy miser into a rather loving father. The multiple actresses that play his adopted daughter Mathilda are adorable, but it's the oldest of the bunch, the one who plays her for the longest amount of screen time at the age of 10 years old, Alana Austin, where most of the conflict strikes. This is when Mathilda's biological father John Newland, played by Gabriel Byrne, decides he wants custody of his daughter. John has always known about Mathilda and is a wealthy politician who lives nearby, but isn't until recently he decided he actually wanted to be in her life. We don't know if the film is expects us to be conflicted about where Mathilda should be because there is never a question for us that she belongs with Michael. They try to make the argument because John is wealthy, he can give her a better life, but for us, this factor is irrelevant, and Mathilda only ever belonged with the man who not only adopted her, but raised her to know unconditional love.

"A Simple Twist of Fate" is a far more dramatic Steve Martin-led film. Up until this point, we have been used to seeing him in comedies, ranging from a few outrageously hilarious films to some silly, more generic ones. The vast majority of the 80's, he was in the zany, wacky comedies, and once the 90's rolled around, he started to expand his horizons a little bit. Now, he is considered quite the versatile actor. It's Martin who offers the best performance here, but we also thought Catherine O'Hara gives a bubbly and fun performance as Michael's only friend April. We wish we could say we liked the rest of that cast, but sometimes, the actors just didn't fit in their roles. Their accents are often just too distracting, especially that of Steven Baldwin, who plays John's little brother Tanny. Luckily, he isn't in the movie very long, but the he is on screen, it's borderline painful to hear him speak (but then again, when is it not painful to hear him speak, accent or not?). Gabriel Byrne also fights back his Irish accent in favor of a southern twang, but his true voice slips through every so often. Though we personally enjoy Byrne, his performance here is not his best.

Overall, apart from a few missteps, "A Simple Twist of Fate" is a touching story with some lighthearted and funny moments. Though sometimes the drama seems forced in the final act, this is still worth a watch to see Steve Martin and Catherine O'Hara shine.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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