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Feeling Minnesota  

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Vincent D'Onofrio, Cameron Diaz, Delroy Lindo Directed by: Steven Baigelman Written by: Steven Baigelman Rated PG-13 Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

"Feeling Minnesota" is a film that had really good intentions, but for me, fell short on it's execution. I'm still not entirely sure why. It stars Keanu Reeves as Jjaks, a drifter who has come home to Minnesota for his brother's wedding. His brother is named Sam, and is played by Vincent D'Onofrio as the kind of big brother who spent so many years beating up his younger brother that he doesn't know any other way to relate to him, except to be angry and hurtful. Of course, his whole wedding isn't exactly overflowing with joy, either. His soon-to-be-wife, Freddie (Cameron Diaz) is incredibly beautiful, but not at all in love with him. She's a "gift" to him by a drug dealer named Red (Delroy Lindo), after Sam discovered some money that was stolen from his drug-dealing boss. At the wedding, Freddie spots Jjaks, strikes up a conversation, and ends up having sex with him inside the house, while the "cheerful" wedding reception continues a few feet away. Freddie is not at all happy with the situation she finds herself in, and begs Jjaks to take her away with him. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with Sam, and he will take whatever actions necessary to get her back.

I think "Feeling Minnesota" wants to be a cross somewhere between "Pulp Fiction" and "Fargo". It has that kind of a feel to it, but it lacks the energy that filled those movies. I think one of the differences is that in those films, the characters' actions were dictated by their personality quirks. There wasn't much self-awareness there. They inhabited their surroundings, without really "inhabiting" their surroundings. Take the characters of Jules and Vincent in "Pulp Fiction", for example. They did mean things, but never saw themselves as mean people. On the way to a contract hit, they discuss things like what a Quarter Pounder is called in France and the morals of giving a foot massage to their boss' wife. When Vincent's pistol goes off and blows the head off of the passenger in the back seat, he pleads that it was an accident, then blames Jules for driving over a bump in the road. What made "Pulp Fiction" fun was that it was told solely from the perspective of the characters involved. Imagine how depressing it would have been if it had taken it's subject matter seriously. I believe writer/director Steven Baigelman was going for the same thing, but "Feeling Minnesota" is different in that the characters act out of hatred toward each other rather than because of their quirks. I'm not saying the characters have to be redeeming, but they should be interesting. It's the hatred they feel toward each other that acts as a burden and wears the film down.

Still, the movie does have some very funny moments, including a hilarious scene where Sam tries to open a safe. Baigelman throws in some good lines and a couple good sight gags, but it doesn't fully deliver on the promise it shows early on. The pieces are all there, right where they need to be - it just doesn't seem to come alive.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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