Cherish (2002) / Comedy-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for language
Running Time: 99 min.

Cast: Robin Tunney, Tim Blake Nelson, Liz Phair, Jason Priestley, Brad Hunt, Nora Dunn
Director: Finn Taylor
Screenplay: Finn Taylor
Review published July 16, 2002

CHERISH is a definite guilty pleasure, the kind of movie that makes very little sense, but has such quirky charm that you may end up loving anyway.  Writer-director Finn Taylor crafts a somewhat nonsensical comic thriller out of his nostalgically blind imagination, and in so doing, makes one of the most fun cinematic diversions of the year.  It's the little things in life that mean the most, and even if CHERISH can't deliver the big picture, there's a lot of little things that still makes this something more than a misfire.

Set in San Francisco, Robin Tunney plays Zoe, a computer animator who is unlucky in love.  She's a dreamer, spending much of her time making goo-goo eyes in the mirror at her imaginary boyfriend, while lip-synching 70s and 80s tunes played on her favorite radio station.  Life isn't all just a dream for Zoe, as one day a mysterious stranger gets in her car and forces her to drive right through a police officer, killing him instantly.  His fellow officers are none-to-happy, especially after finding that Zoe is well above the legal limit for drunk driving, and she is slapped with a vehicular homicide rap.  The court orders to house arrest pending her trial, where her days are spent without much company save for the occasional delivery boy and a lonely older man named Daly (Nelson) who makes sure the ankle bracelet Zoe wears is functional and still on her person.  Zoe has little time left to clear her name, but how can she find the real killer without being able to leave her apartment?

CHERISH is perhaps Robin Tunney's most memorable performance to date, and she puts all into her role, rounding out Zoe into a fun character to watch, probably because she's just a little off, to say the least.  The supporting cast isn't always given much to do, but it should please the younger set to see Liz Phair in her first real dramatic role, and also Jason Priestley in a rare post-90210 big screen role.  Tim Blake Nelson plays his role fairly straight, but is right on the money, a drab empty man who welcomes the frivolity in his life that Zoe has to offer.

As I said, CHERISH isn't exactly the most savvy film when it comes to the law, and is especially guilty of funny logic regarding its main contraption of the power-box and ankle bracelet.  However, the film is just such fun, it's easy to forgive the some of the large logic loopholes that permeate most of the running length.  You can't take it too seriously or you're in for a frustrating, and perhaps futile, time.  There's even an occasional homage, the most notable being the RUN LOLA RUN style race for time near the film's climax.

For those who need some viable explanation, I'll try to employ a little knowledge gained in my film studies classes and see if it fits.  Zoe can be seen to represent youth and free spirit, a lover of 70s and early 80s music, representing writer-director Finn Taylor's prime years of life and love.  Like the girls of those days, Zoe likes to roller skate, chew bubble gum, wear funky colored clothes, and has an innocent outlook on life.  Daly can be seen as Taylor of today, a sort of over-the-hill man who opens up to the attractive world Zoe has to offer, longing for some of the fun he no longer seems to have now that he's older.  The world outside is cold, full of juvenile delinquents, murderous strangers, and people who will rip you off as soon as you leave the house.  But Zoe's world is like a childish fantasy, an 80s music video of winks and kisses, and candy-striped lollipops. The music is fun and lively, not like that hard rap and techno of today, and exudes that same positive cheer that embodies everything that Zoe is and Daly wants to be.

I know that's just part of the film, but you get the picture.  CHERISH is definitely recommended for those who love music and styles from the 70s and 80s, and who also enjoy quirky independent films full of kooky energy.  People looking for a good thriller or a raucous comedy need not apply, as the main plotline revolving around the real murderer is as ludicrous as they come, and the humor is subtle and sometimes strange.  However, as long as you don't spend too much time trying to make sense of it all, you'll cherish every bizarre, energetic moment.

 Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo