Ray Meets Helen
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In bizarre, unrelated turns of events, two complete strangers, Ray (Academy Award® Winner Keith Carradine, Nashville) and Helen (Academy Award® Nominee Sondra Locke, Bronco Billy) each happen upon large sums of money which give them the chance to re-invent themselves. As they fake their way to the high life, their paths cross, each falling for the other's new-and-improved personas. But as their true selves shine through the act, Ray and Helen find themselves falling in love with the very qualities they are trying to hide from one another. From acclaimed writer / director Alan Rudolph (Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, Mortal Thoughts), Ray Meets Helen features an all-star supporting cast that includes Keith David (The Nice Guys), Samantha Mathis (American Psycho), Academy Award® nominee Jennifer Tilly (Bullets over Broadway), Kim Wayans (In Living Color), Cynda Williams (One False Move), Jack Noseworthy (U-571) and Lenny von Dohlen (Electric Dreams) in a wonderfully, magically humane film filled with imaginative visuals (NY Times) that is filled with Rudolphian magic (The Film Stage).
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In all the Rudolph films I've seen, there's a palpable sense of yearning, of loneliness, of wanting to feel connected with someone in an alienating world. I felt the same with this movie. Ray and Helen walk through Rudolph's world feeling disconnected. Technology and society have outpaced them. Someone talks through the TV set, someone commits suicide, someone considers suicide, and the remote control is hopelessly complicated. People live in gated buildings where no one really knows or wants to know their neighbors. The restaurant, pretentiously named "Les Visiteurs," offers no warmth even with a birthday party. Birthdays, which are a running motif through this film, are no longer an occasion for celebration for Helen.
Sondra Locke and Keith Carradine are both good in their roles. I kept thinking of Carradine in other Rudolph films, including the young Carroll Barber in Welcome To L.A., and, here, I could see Ray as Carroll grown old. The main problem is there's little chemistry between Ray and Helen. It's not helped by their strange, stilted conversations. The uninteresting subplot between Ray's ex-wife (Jennifer Tilly) and his boss also doesn't help, it just pads the screen time.
I get that this is supposed to be Rudolph's fantasy universe and not reality, but the characters behave in ways so far removed that I can no longer relate. The boy living in the vacant house and the hospital workers who don't seem to notice Ray's gunshot wound are two examples.
I was surprised that Mark Isham didn't compose the soundtrack. He's collaborated with Rudolph on many of his films to the point where I can't separate the two.
The film, like The Passenger, ends on a downer. Money, which everyone in the film craves, should mean freedom and happiness. As Ray and Helen learn, it doesn't change much for either of them. What's left in Rudolph's world is the yearning for a "Beautiful Dream."
The 3 reviewers who gave it 5 stars must be in some kind of grey surreal world ... or friends of the cast or director or paid by the distributors of the film is all that I can guess. Someone said 'Best American movie of the year' ??? I just cannot fathom that.