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Laramie Movie Scope: Simpatico

Some people, it seems, still have a conscience

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 3, 1999 -- "Simpatico" is a movie about four people linked together by a terrible secret. On the surface, three of them seem to have gotten on with their lives well enough, two of them really well, but something is eating at them, too.

The four people are Vinnie (played by Nick Nolte of "Affliction") Carter (Jeff Bridges of "The Big Lebowski"), Rosie (Sharon Stone of "The Muse") and Simms (Albert Finney of "Miller's Crossing"). The four are linked in a scheme to rig horse races. The incident happened years ago and is told in a series of flashbacks that take place over the course of the movie.

Carter and Rosie live in a mansion in Kentucky with a stable of racing horses, while Simms, a horse racing inspector who was corrupted by the scandal, ends up being a horse racing bloodline agent. Only Vinnie does not get on with his life. He continues to blackmail Carter into giving him an easy living.

On the eve of Carter making a deal to sell a very expensive racehorse, Simpatico, Vinnie calls Carter and tells him he has to come help him out of a jam, or he may be forced to tell what he knows. Carter drops everything and flies out to California to help Vinnie. It turns out to be a ruse. Vinnie takes Carter's billfold and heads to Kentucky with a box of evidence he thinks will straighten out everything.

It turns out not to be that simple for Vinnie, or for Rosie, Carter or Simms. A box of evidence can't make up for all the damage they have done, but it does serve as a catalyst to help them come to terms with their past. The different ways that each of them carries their guilt is revealed as Vinnie, with his box of evidence goes careening off each of them like a pinball, stirring things up.

As you would expect from this cast, there are some fine performances in this film, headed by Nolte and Finney. Nolte is one of the few actors who can occupy the same screen with Finney without being chewed up and spit out. Nolte can make himself large or small. In this film, unlike "Thin Red Line," he makes himself small, literally slinking from scene to scene. Jeff Bridges, another fine actor, goes from being confident and self-assured to being a broken down drunk, being eaten from within by the cancer of guilt.

Most contemporary films don't deal much with the ideas of guilt and shame and most don't question the idea of success being determined solely by money. This film puts both of these issues under a microscope. Why does Carter find it so easy to leave his life of luxury behind? Why does Vinnie find it so hard to accept his ill-gotten gains? Why is it Rosie seems both proud and ashamed of the fact that she would do anything for money? These are some of the issues the film explores. I found it engaging and thought-provoking. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1999 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]