Ever wonder where those model-perfect homeless girls you always see riffing on Stratocasters in Tompkins Square Park come from? The answer lies within. The point of departure for Amy (daughter of Robert) Redford’s debut feature is Ikiru—protagonist discovers he/she has cancer, just months to live, and reconsiders life accordingly. But you know you don’t have to take The Guitar seriously when it delivers the bad news through Janeane Garafalo, in a scene-undermining cameo—Exhibit A of the film’s muddled priorities. Statuesque Saffron Burrows is Melody, our “mousy” heroine, complete with brown cardigan to spell her out as such. Where Kurosawa’s stricken bureaucrat faces whittling death by doing something that will reverberate in other people’s memories, for Melody, who absorbs “Little Match Girl” abuse from everyone around her, the tell-tale X-ray is a “self matters” wake-up call to crash retail therapy, learning guitar, and indulging banal bourgie fantasies of bi-curious romps with delivery personnel. In a Louise L. Hay–worthy plot twist, extreme lifestyle makeover might be enough to whip the Big C. I think Melody actually joins some poncey NYC fashion-rock outfit toward the end, but thrombosis was setting in so I can’t be positive. Interesting only in showing how tin-eared scriptwriting (by Amos Poe) can make 2008 New York City seem less familiar than 1952 Japan.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 5, 2008