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Robin Tunney discovers the joy of house arrest.

© 2002, Fine Line
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It used to be when you'd spy someone on the street who was ravishing, then proceed to engulf yourself in a landscape of elaborate fantasy about the object of your affection, it was called a "crush." Now, it's called "stalking." However you define it, "Cherish" (IMDb listing) is a film that explores this type of sexual objectification and hopeless romanticism, backed by all the music hits you've come to love.

Zoe (Robin Tunney, "The Craft") is a hapless, lonesome computer animator who spends her time dreaming about her hunky co-worker (Jason Priestly). After a night of serious drinking, Zoe hops in her car for a ride home, and so does a mysterious stranger (Brad Hunt, "Dream With The Fishes") who's been stalking Zoe. A skirmish between the two in the car results in the death of a street cop, and the stranger gets away clean while Zoe is left to be arrested. Overcome by the prospect of prison, Zoe opts for a house arrest program where she is confined to an apartment on the seedy side of town, and must wear a ankle bracelet to make sure she stays there. The bracelet technician, a cop named Daly (Tim Blake Nelson, Delmar from "O Brother Where Art Thou?"), is smitten with Zoe, and ends up helping the troubled young woman as she plans to find the creep who got her into such deep trouble in the first place.

"Cherish" is a million genres and ideas all at once. A literal convention of colors, music, and actors (musician Liz Phair makes her acting debut), "Cherish" is not exactly what you would call a well thought out film. It marks the second feature from the bewildering Finn Taylor, the director of the underrated "Dream With The Fishes," and one of the only filmmakers around to get a good performance out of David Arquette. Taylor is a writer/director in love with isolation, emotional journeys, and pop music. So much so, that the defining characteristic of "Cherish" is the soundtrack, which ranges from the '60s to the '80s without breaking a sweat. The music also acts as an underscore to the characters' emotional points of view. The stalker's music preferences? Hall and Oates's "Private Eyes" and Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." A little too on the nose, I know, but Taylor is a gifted filmmaker, and the music acts as as superb support for whenever this odd film ventures too far away from its home base.

But what is the home base to "Cherish?" Your guess is as good as mine. The film mixes straight-faced thriller elements with comedy, romance and even some prison escape drama. It's a concoction that can't always work, as one of those elements is bound to distract whenever things really get going. Taylor, knowing the limits of his own film, has dressed "Cherish" up in fantasy sequences and delectable cinematography, which uses its low-tech limits to spectacular effect. But in the end, which is a kind of hybrid between "Run Lola Run" and a community theater version of "Panic Room," Taylor must let the story lead for once, and that's when it becomes shiningly clear that the artifices he cakes on his movie have been working too well. Believe me, the minute Hunt starts his serial killer psycho-babble in the climax, you'll want nothing more then to head back into dreamland and see Tunney, bathed in reds and pinks, blowing kisses to the tune of Human League's "(Keep Feeling) Fascination."

Filmfodder Grade: B

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