How does Annette Bening do it? Because, boy, does she do it - without even attempting to hide the wrinkles in her face and, more generally, her age (and women in Hollywood, once they age, are not seen the same way men are), Ms. Bening remains a beautiful woman who seems to radiate confidence, commitment and sincerity in every single role she takes on. She is probably one of the very few actresses who could give Meryl Streep a run for her money - if given the chance, which, unfortunately, she, and many of the others, aren't.
But even if she does not get the big first-choice roles, Ms. Bening makes every role she gets worthy of a first choice. Case in point: this intriguing but ultimately underachieving melodrama, an old-fashioned woman's picture glossily handled by sophomore director Arie Posin, where Ms. Bening plays Nikki, a distraught widow who falls hard in love with a man who seems to be a perfect ringer for her dead architect husband. Her perfect life having collapsed from under her feet when Garrett (Ed Harris) unexpectedly dies skinny-dipping from under her feet during a vacation, Nikki fails to find something to live for until a chance encounter in a museum with a man (also played by Mr. Harris) who could have been Garrett's perfect twin.
He's not, and Mr. Posin, also co-scripting, tantalizingly toys the viewer with any alluring possibility; since the film is mostly seen from Nikki's point of view, for a lot of its length you're unsure whether Tom is really that close physically to Garrett or if she is just projecting his own desires on the relationship she tentatively enters into with him. Ms. Bening's performance is pitch-perfect, her chemistry with Mr. Harris superb, and Mr. Posin lets both actors run away with their roles, enriching a film that is handsomely shot but ultimately keeps backing away from committing to any of the possibilities it opens.
The actors end up committing to the film more than the director does, which is a shame for a project that starts out deliberately invoking Hitchcock's Vertigo (with a strategically placed poster for the film) only to peter out into a half-hearted melodrama threatening to fall into superior soap opera. There's Ms. Bening, though, and that pretty much is enough as proof that the right actress can do wonders for a film.
THE FACE OF LOVE
Cast Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Jess Weixler, Amy Brenneman, Robin Williams
Director Arie Posin; screenwriters Matthew McDuffie and Mr. Posin; cinematographer Antonio Riestra (colour); composer Marcelo Zarvos; designer Jeannine Oppewall; costumes Judianna Makovsky; editors Matt Maddox and Mr. Posin; producers Bonnie Curtis and Julie Lynn; production companies Mockingbird Pictures in association with Trinity Diversified Film Fund
screened July 28th 2015, Lisbon, DVD