Lethal weapons wielded by a sick high school senior are a singularly unappetizing subject at a time when real life is rife with such tragedies.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

No tortoise ever moved more slowly than "Mad Love." Taking as its premise the classic cliche of a good boy derailed by a bad girl, the movie takes over an hour to make clear that we are watching not love or lust, but mental illness. By then, it has become intolerably earnest--an odd outing for director Antonia Bird, whose provocative hit, "Priest," was laced with humor and style.

Matt (Chris O'Donnell) studies in the library, rows diligently on the school crew and studies the stars through his bedroom telescope--until the night he spies Casey (Drew Barrymore) cavorting across the waterscape on her Jet-Ski. She rides that motorized toxic noise right into his life, puncturing his serenity forever.

Casey moves around in a yellow VW Beetle that she kick- starts cutely and drives maniacally along the scenic highways of the great Northwest. Danger is her fuel, rudeness her manner, boredom her trigger. A quiet moment floods Casey with an anxious need to fill the void with trouble, and she is smart enough to seduce Matt as her protector.

In place of star-gazing, Matt is now lying on his bed in the dark bouncing a ball off the wall while he thinks about Casey, whose desperate father has announced he is sending her to boarding school. She ends up instead in a mental hospital, from which Matt springs her for the obligatory road trip through the West that is punctuated by stock shots of their hands, mouths, and heaving backs making love to a soundtrack of moans and sighs.

Casey's descent into madness is defined by the danger games she plays with cars, guns, and people. Lethal weapons wielded by a sick high school senior are a singularly unappetizing subject at a time when real life is rife with such tragedies.

The real pity here is that director Bird has lavished great care on the details. The score, costumes, and colors, supporting cast strike a consistent note; but there is little to hold us beyond the question of how many lives Casey will ruin.

Chris O'Donnell's is a thankless part that requires him to be a lovesick puppy with no chance to shine on his own. Drew Barrymore, who has shown her true bright colors as a comedienne in recent movies, is wasted in this leaden film. Best when she is unleashed, Barrymore is confined here within the sobering limits of mental illness, unable to bring her natural and appealing eccentricity to the role.

Stuck with hand-wringing roles, the parents of the pair suffer from underdeveloped parts and inconsequential dialogue. The script, failing to find interest in any other characters, is pulled along characteristically by the spoiled teenager who is its subject. What Casey wants, everyone else gets. What all of us get is the story of one long nervous breakdown. It would take Tolstoy to make news of that old material, and he was not available this time.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 495
Studio : Touchstone Pictures
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h35m

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