Miranda (2002) / Thriller-Romance

MPAA Rated: R for strong sexuality and violence                                                 Running Time: 90 min.

Cast: John Simm, Christina Ricci, John Hurt, Kyle MacLachlan, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Cavan Clerkin, Matthew Marsh    
Director: Marc Munden
Screenplay: Rob Young



Outside of the Sundance Film Festival, Miranda never got to see much theater action, so you're probably either seeing it on the video shelf or on TV and wondering, "What the hell is this?" 

"Good and bad," is the best way for me to describe it.  It's not just an appropriate description of Ricci's dual-personalitied character, but also of the quality of the film itself.  Miranda is a comic romance mixed with a conman thriller, two great tastes that somehow don't taste great together.  At least, not when one of them is clearly tasty enough to be good enough on its own.  Why mix a great thing with something that's mediocre?

Although he's not on the cover of the video box, John Simm is the main star, playing Frank.  Frank is an offbeat librarian, bored with his shallow existence, who suddenly finds something to keep his interest while on the job in the form of Miranda (Ricci).  Miranda is initially not too interested in any dalliances with Frank, as she's "on the job" as a con woman.  However, she softens a bit, learning to indulge in the anonymity that being with Frank affords her, but the longer he's with her, the less he feels he knows.  Then she disappears, leaving Frank heartbroken but resolute on finding her.  But when he does, will he like the real Miranda?

Miranda starts off very well, playing mostly for clever laughs and a typically offbeat romance, British-style.  If the entire film were as fresh and funny as the first half hour, this could have been a true romantic comedy gem.  Things turn a bit darker and more serious once Frank finds Miranda, and the shift in genre from comic-romance to crime-thriller proves to be a near fatal misstep, as the drama isn't nearly as appealing in the slightest.  Interest in the proceedings from then on goes down considerably, only coming to life again during the scenes when Frank and Miranda share screen time together.  Unfortunately, they are few and far between during the last hour, filling much of the remaining time with some flaccid drama surrounding John Hurt as Miranda's mentor in crime, and some hit-and-miss sado-masochistic scenes involving MacLachlan as the obsessive mark, Nailor. 

How much Miranda ultimately entertains you depends on how much you can forgive the stretches of mediocrity to enjoy the good bits of comedy and romance.  Fans of Ricci will probably also find some interest, as she seems to excel in walking the fine line between good and evil, and Miranda is quite the showcase of her talent.  However, too much bad drama and eccentricities drag the otherwise lively, smart independent flick down.  Worth a glance when there's nothing else to watch, but low expectations are a must.

2003 Vince Leo