Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:36 - Released 3/24/00

Despite the shortness of her acting career to date, 18-year-old Leelee Sobieski has made some pretty big impressions. With pivotal roles in 1998's Deep Impact and 1999's controversial Eyes Wide Shut, not to mention an Emmy-nominated turn as the title role in last year's TV movie Joan Of Arc (not to be confused with The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc, which starred Milla Jovovich), Sobieski has established herself firmly in the public consciousness as one of the most promising young actors on the screen today. In Here On Earth, a bittersweet love story penned by Michael Seitzman and directed by Mark Piznarski, she is paired with Chris Klein, another up-and-coming talent with an even shorter list of credits, for a compelling film full of heart and class.

Klein plays Kelley, a rich kid about to graduate from a New England prep school. Taking his new car out for a spin, he engages a local boy named Jasper (Josh Hartnett) in a drag race with unfortunate consequences. They crash into the gas pumps in front of Mable's Table, the long-established town diner owned by the family of Jasper's girlfriend Samantha (Sobieski), causing a fire that quickly consumes the place. No one is seriously harmed, but the town's most popular meeting place is no more. The judge decides that the two boys will be sentenced to help rebuild the place, and a lack of affordable housing places Kelley in Jasper's attic. The boys are both willing to fulfill their debt to society, but they make no pretense at friendship. Their mutual antagonism grows when a romance develops between Kelley and Samantha.

Although the three principal actors in this film are under 25, they carry with ease the emotional range necessary for this tragic love triangle. Sobieski and Klein establish an easy sense of affection between them, which grows into a deeper passion; Hartnett's portrayal as the jilted lover is no less engaging. Piznarski uses his cast, his talented cinematographer, Michael D. O'Shea, and art director James F. Truesdale to great effect to evoke the carefree feeling of a love affair during a sun-dappled New England summer, although the film was shot entirely in Minnesota. When the story turns dark near the end, it may have been tempting to go for tears, but Piznarski wisely keeps a lid on the overt sentimentality, giving the subject matter even greater effect. ****½

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews

See FilmQuips Archive