Film Reviews

November Mourn

Sure you want to be inside Sophie Jacobs' head? The poor woman's cabeza is so stuffed with guilt and fear, so tormented by grief and what might be delusions, that to spend even five minutes in there poses an obvious risk to your own sanity. At least, that's the way filmmaker Greg Harrison (Groove) hopes we feel -- as crazy and mixed-up as Sophie herself. Almost the entire narrative of Harrison's new thriller, November, unfolds in his heroine's mind -- three distinct, contradictory narratives, actually -- and by the time you get through the thing, you could be suffering from a case of perceptual overload.

Even on its surface, November can be as baffling as it is intermittently intriguing. What we know for sure is that on the night of November 7, Sophie (Friends alum Courteney Cox, bespectacled, deglamourized, and deadly serious) and her lawyer boyfriend, Hugh (James Le Gros), are driving home from dinner at a Chinese restaurant when she feels a sudden urge for chocolate. He stops at a corner store and is promptly shot dead, along with the store's proprietor, by a crazed stickup man.

Significantly, Sophie is a photographer who teaches at a local college, and the movie (inventively shot on mini-DV) has all kinds of things to say -- some of it worth heeding -- about the magic of images, the choices artists make, and the hidden meanings in pictures.

For Sophie, Hugh's death is not just a trauma; it's the start of a psychological revolution that threatens her in every way. In her photo class, a slide depicting the store where the murders occurred materializes in the magazine of her projector. Standing before her mirror, she morphs into someone else. Surveillance tapes suggest alternatives to Sophie's first impressions. What's real? What's imagined?

November means to drop plenty of hints about what really happened while leaving the mystery intact. The eerie mood is intensified by Nancy Schreiber's dark, jittery cinematography, an offbeat score by Lew Baldwin, and the presence of three odd, minor characters -- Sophie's overbearing mother (Anne Archer), the co-worker with whom she's had a guilt-ridden affair (Michael Ealy), and a bullet-headed police detective in a lumpy suit (Nick Offerman).

November is an interesting and sometimes compelling experiment -- especially when you consider that the makers got it onto the screen for a mere $150,000 -- but it's so derivative and it indulges in such film-school solemnity that many viewers will probably be more annoyed than engrossed.

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Bill Gallo