Rakesh's movie talk
Sea Of Love (1989)

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Directed by Harold Becker
Written by Richard Price
Starring Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin and John Goodman


Sea of Love is an example of how a movie can work with performance from actors alone. Scriptwise, there are lot of crap. Direction? I can't tell precisely what is wrong with that, but it doesn't really work. Maybe its Al Pacino's presence which detracts us from the director's (Harold Becker) handicraft.

This movie is often remembered for Pacino's comeback. 80's has been particularly hard on this super actor. Failures of films like Author! Author! and Revolution frustrated him and he kept away from film. He was lured back and the result is a bad cop versus serial killer movie with all-round superb performance.

Pacino plays Frank Keller, a burnt out, alcoholic cop entering the 20th year of service. He is just divorced and find himself investigating murder involving a couple of men on bed. He teams up with John Goodman's character to track down the killer. They find out that the killer is responding to dating advertisement on paper that rhymes. They put up one, take turn for appointments with respondents, and get them to leave prints on the respective wine glasses. Stupid but effective. In the process, Keller meets Helen Cruger (Ellen Barkin), a divorced mother, who becomes THE suspect. Of course, in movies like this, when someone is shown as THE obvious suspect, you know the she is NOT the killer. Anyway, Keller gets involved with her, predictably. But that is one heck of an involvement. Steamy and raunchy enough to give Michael Douglass, Glenn Close and Sharon Stone a run for their money.

There is one particularly scene that sort of tugged my heart. Amongst the respondent is this older, but beautiful woman. She confesses of her insecurity about her age, and Keller assures her that 'three quarter of the women I know don't look as good as you are'. Keller tells her, at the end of the 'date' that he will call her. She gets up, and sadly says, 'No you won't." And off Keller goes 'dating' other women, and when one is concluded, he sees this old lady at the bar. She had seen it all. The lady leaves, defeated, cheated, and with tears rolling down her eyes. Man, I almost felt a lump in my throat. If only the scriptwriter has explored this further.

Anyway, what holds this movie is the performance. The sexual chemistry between Pacino and Barkin will never again be witnessed on screen for a long, long time. It will stick in your mind. I also liked the buddy elements, concerning Pacino and Goodman. Loved the big guy. He has so much of charisma and sense of humour. This two could have gone ahead and appear in sequels.

The structure of this film is very familiar. That is, if you are fed with onslaught of cop TV series at that time, you will find this movie very predictable. Right down to the whodunnit thing. And with me - coming from crime fiction staple - I find the denouement too insulting. There are supposed twist and turn, which just managed to make me impatient. The suspense is only helped by perfomance, not the flamboyant score or editing which tries too hard to please.

But don't let my negative comment deter you. It is still a good film, thanks to the actors. Something like Brando's Young Lions or Sayonara where you can only appreciate the actors..

Here is one positive review about the film. It also talks a bit about Pacino's career. Enjoy: