Despite its title, The Simian Line is not about human evolution—it refers to a rare combined head-and-heart line in the palm. In Linda Yellen’s romantic drama, jealousies ferment, generations collide, and ghosts rise from the past. Lynn Redgrave simmers as Katharine, a woman d’un certain âge who turns green-eyed when she thinks her younger lover (Harry Connick Jr.) spends too much time ogling the neighbor next door. It’s not a bad hunch when that person happens to be Cindy Crawford—a social climber with an equally ambitious husband (Jamey Sheridan). Renting a room from Katharine are a Gen X duo (Monica Keena and Dylan Bruno) taking care of a child when they’re barely out of diapers themselves. One of these three couples, palmist and all-around crackpot Arnita (Tyne Daly) declares, will break up by the end of the year.
The film tries hard to avoid cliché but doesn’t get very far; it’s set across the Hudson in Weehawken, prime real estate for glittering shots of Manhattan at nightfall. Cowriter and director Yellen seems to be aiming for an Altman-like interweaving of stories, but the picture is so cluttered with voice-overs and histrionics that it resembles Katharine’s detritus-laden attic. In the most superfluous conceit, two ghosts pass criticism on all and sundry; they’re played by William Hurt as a plodding Southern gentleman and Samantha Mathis as a raccoon-eyed flapper all dressed up with nowhere to go. No wonder the six main characters are always gazing longingly across the river, accompanied by Enya-like strains of “The Water Is Wide,” as if searching for one of the “eight million stories in New York.” With this quote, the film simply evokes the myriad possibilities it never considers.