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To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday
(Entertainment Weekly - August 23, 1996)

Starring Peter Gallagher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Kathy Baker, Wendy Crewson, Bruce Altman, Freddie Prinze Jr.
Directed By Michael Pressman
Without the saccharine sobs of Demi Moore and the sex-at-the-pottery-wheel filler, To Gillian... could be a sugar-and-schmaltz-free Ghost that's good for you. When TriStar executives saw Michael Brady's 1986 play about a husband (Gallagher) in such deep mourning for his late wife (Pfeiffer) that he'd rather talk to her ghost than to their teenage daughter (Danes), they bought the movie rights but ultimately put it in turnaround. It was resuscitated two years ago, with creator David E. Kelley writing the script for Fences director Pressman. (And that's Fences star Baker playing Pfeiffer's sister.) Since the action takes place during one Nantucket weekend, there was nothing to push the budget beyond $10 million -- not even Kelley's wife, Pfeiffer, who was paid slightly more than scale. Jokes Gallagher, "I don't know what her life at home would have been like if she didn't do it." (Oct. 24)

<<BUZZ>> Critics will consider it a day at the beach, but the crowds might find the waters too calm.

Romeo and Juliet
(Entertainment Weekly - August 23, 1996)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo, Paul Rudd, Diane Venora, Paul Sorvino
Directed By Baz Luhrmann
Hope springs eternal, especially when it comes to resurrecting love stories -- Romeo and Juliet's specifically. Not content with Zeffirelli's seminal 1968 take, the Australian Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom) has created a rockin', rollin', Dolce & Gabbana-clad vision of the lovers, set in a south Florida the Bard never imagined. Danes and DiCaprio recite Shakespeare, but in this incarnation, they're not only heartsick but hip, and their world includes satellite dishes and elevators. "It wasn't Romeo and Juliet running around in tights with an affected English accent," says DiCaprio, who admits that when he first heard of the plans to modernize R&J, "I regarded it as camp, a little fishy." Gradually, the passion of the story won the actor, who was rattled only by the need to weep on cue throughout the filming in Mexico. "I've gotten better at it, which is cool," he says. "Before, it took me like forever. Now I just need like 10 minutes to sit down and really think of something terrible." Danes had the opposite problem: "I remember in the death scene, he was crying his eyes out," she says. "I got so emotional and I thought, 'Oh, no, I can't have tears coming. I'm supposed to be comatose.'" (Oct.18)

<<BUZZ>> If a loud soundtrack, gaudy graphics, and two spectacular stars can't rouse teens from a Shakespeare-induced snooze, nothing can.

Oscar Watch
(Entertainment Weekly - August 23, 1996)

What does a Palme d'Or from the Cannes film festival mean? Sometimes alot; Pulp Fiction and The Piano are among the movies that have cruised straight from the Croisette to a Best Picture Oscar nomination. And sometimes nothing; 1995's big Cannes winner, Emir Kusturica's Underground hasn't even gotten an American release yet. Which leaves the fate of this year's Palme d'Or recipient, Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies (opening wider this month), as anybody's guess; the British import will probably need heavy critical support (and year-end critic's prizes for Leigh or star Brenda Blethyn) to compete with the big guns. Ocotober brings two of the biggest: Neil Jordan's Irish political history Michael Collins (which boasts previous nominees Lian Neeson, Stephen Rea, and Julia Roberts), and Barry Levinson's crime-and-friendship drama Sleepers (which boasts previous nominees Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Brad Pitt). Impressive pedigrees, but there's just as much buzz for a number of performers who have never been nominated, from Collin's Alan Rickman to Claire Danes, who gets two chances in October with To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday and Romeo and Juliet. Those names may sound unlikely, but remember -- of the last year's 20 acting nominees, 15 were first-timers.

© 1996, Entertainment Weekly