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Friday, June 21, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

'Cherish' isn't the word to describe reaction to this uneven black comedy

Seattle Times movie critic

"Cherish"


**
With Robin Tunney, Tim Blake Nelson, Brad Hunt, Liz Phair, Jason Priestley, Nora Dunn, Lindsay Crouse. Written and directed by Finn Taylor. 100 minutes. Rated R for language. Varsity.

The best moments of "Cherish," an uneven black comedy from writer-director Finn Taylor ("Dream with the Fishes"), are at the very end and very beginning of the film. At the end is a sweet, yearning close-up of that fine actor Tim Blake Nelson, who can yearn as well as anyone in the business. And, during the opening credit sequence, all the words are split up and floating around the screen, and for one glorious moment I thought this was a Cher film, co-starring someone named "Ish." But, alas, it was not to be.

In between these two splendid bits is a lot of plot (which doesn't always make sense), a fetching but mostly wasted lead performance by Robin Tunney, and a lot of puppy-love '70s music. While the kitschy pleasure of hearing "Seasons in the Sun" again should not be underestimated, "Cherish" is not a film to be cherished, but to be tolerated.

Tunney, who talks in a cute, rambling rush of words (like a neurotic Meg Ryan), plays Zoe, a lonely twentysomething who finds herself arrested, tried and sentenced to two years of house arrest for a crime that she didn't mean to commit. Alone in a dingy apartment, with nary a book to pass the time, Zoe roller-skates aimlessly around her empty living room, diverted only by visits from the dweeby cop (Nelson) who drops by to monitor her. Everybody in the movie is lonely; nobody in the movie seems especially bright.

Like Zoe's skating, "Cherish" feels aimless for much of its running time, until late in the film when a tidal wave of plot arrives, leaving questions in its wake. There's little to focus on except Tunney's doe-eyed beauty (weirdly, nobody in the movie except Nelson seems to notice what a knockout she is — it's a little hard to believe her as an office misfit), Nelson's sweetly lovesick cop, and that often-witty soundtrack.

Could Cher — who never does show up, despite my fervent wishes — have saved this movie? We'll never know.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

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