From a bizarrely overenunciated, hooked-on-phonics voice-over, through a diva fit at a child’s funeral as if the church were Jennifer Lopez’s makeup trailer, to a jailhouse paroxysm of split-selved masochism brutal enough to make David Fincher squirm, Sigourney Weaver in A Map of the World kamikaze-dives her mission-impossible part with action-hero zest, turning what could have been a made-for-Lifetime dramastarring Meredith Baxter into a made-for-Lifetime drama starring Farrah Fawcett. Weaver’s Alice, a school nurse, becomes distracted one day while watching her daughters and those of neighbor Theresa (a serene Julianne Moore, who escapes not just unscathed but weirdly ennobled by this catastrophe); Theresa’s child drowns in the backyard pond. Then a trashy waitress (Chloe Sevigny) accuses Alice of sexually abusing her son, and Alice lands in jail; her spacey husband (David Strathairn) has to pony up their farm and move the kids into a rat-hole apartment to get bail money. Alice seems little more than annoyed by her tribulations; when her lawyer asks why she’s taking her blows so unnervingly well, she replies, “Didn’t you ever want to run away to a desert island?” The line doesn’t make sense in context either, except that the whole movie is one big shrieking non sequitur. By the time Alice speaks of her family as “outcasts making a perfect circle,” we see her martyrdom as self-empowerment at the expense of a broken spouse, several traumatized children, and a dead baby. Scott Elliott’s palsied directorial debut, from a mine shaft-ridden script, is a sick joke, and Weaver’s part in it screams of temporary insanity.
**Matching A Map of the World in bad justice and penny-dreadful melotrauma, Hell’s Kitchen pokes its craven snout around the wreckage of a drug deal gone awry: Kids die, an innocent man (Mekhi Phifer) goes to prison, a grieving mom (Rosanna Arquette) seeks refuge in drugs. Angelina Jolie, as Arquette’s daughter, nabs the tastiest bits, including teary confrontation (“You killed my brudda!”) and not one but two chances to catch her boyfriend nailing her mother (“You fucked my mudda!”). You can’t possibly hate a movie this thunderously stupid.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 30, 1999