Paint by Numbers

Is there something glamorous about mental illness in women? Occasionally, we get a Rain Man, but the role call for the other side is quite exhausting: Kirsten Dunst in Crazy/Beautiful, Drew Barrymore in Mad Love, Mary Stuart Masterson in Benny & Joon (yes, Johnny Depp too in that one), Alicia Silverstone in The Crush, and the ensemble in Girl, Interrupted. The vast majority of crazy women are placed on screen as some kind of sexual object. Filmmakers are constantly making an equivalance between being free of an internal censor and being sexually free.

Melanie Griffith plays the insane card for the second time - remember Crazy In Alabama? This time, her character falls a little closer to the stereotype. Heck, she even has a nude scene (albeit from a distance). Much of the first half of the film involves her trying to play-seduce former lover Patrick Swayze.

These two are Lulu and Ben, who haven't seen each other in years. Ben has pursued his writing career and is now married to Claire (Penelope Ann Miller). Lulu has been in an institution. She takes off without permission and tracks down Ben to tell him he has a son he never knew about, which she gave up for adoption. The two take off cross country to meet him, and Lulu's alternating seductiveness and erratic behavior is the primary obstacle for this part of the movie.

There's one interesting thing about the setup. Claire and Ben had a son also, but he died the year before. This is the best decision in the film, and enables the actors to work in a few spots with more complicated and confused motivations than what the plain plotline gives them.

The acting is pretty good through the more charged situations, but those are far and few between. Some scenes may have been meant to have more impact than came across on screen. This is the debut for director John Kaye (he also wrote the script), and the responsibility for conveying a purposefully (and I'm sure it is) simple script effectively rests upon his shoulders.

The ending wraps things up in a little box with the prettiest, best possible bow. We culminate our false ending with music dripping in such bittersweet saccharine, only to see a title of "18 months later" for one final dopey, almost pointless scene of small personal triumphs. The film isn't tight enough to pull this off.

Forever Lulu is well-meaning, but overshoots too far on the side of self-reflection and straightforward characters. Nobody really does anything all that interesting, not even the crazy lady.

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