Writer/Director Barry Levinson closes out his Baltimore Trilogy with "Avalon," a visually enchanting, magnificently assembled tale of the Krichinsky family over a period of several decades. Levinson beautifully captures the family's journey to America as immigrants and the trials and tribulations they face in discovering America, economic success, and each other.
Aidan Quinn serves as the centerpiece for the action, and Levinson wisely allows the action to evolve essentially around his experiences in America, business and family. As Jules, Quinn is marvelous and reminds us why we ever hoped for his career to blossom. Quinn's performance is one of great power and yet one also of great sensitivity.
It is this sensitivity that allows "Avalon" to stand out among films. Levinson, better than most American writers, captures the complexities of the male spirit and heart. Levinson's male characters are never one-note. Instead, Levinson creates men of strength who are comfortable in their masculinity and, yet, also strong enough to care openly and expressively. Even in a film such as the nearly disastrous "Toys," Levinson creates a character who is at once sensitive and child-like yet strong enough to confront the most dastardly evil. Levinson offers a refreshing spin on masculinity that I embrace and celebrate.
Quinn is surrounded by a family of solid performances including Armin Mueller Stahl, Joan Plowright, Lou Jacobi and Leo Fuchs. In supporting roles, Elijah Woods and Elizabeth Perkins shine particularly brightly.
"Avalon" remains visually mesmerizing throughout, however, the screenplay itself starts to falter towards the end of the film. In some ways, the messages of the film begin to overtake the characters and we are left with a film that becomes more an intellectual exercise than a celebration of family. This "soapbox" approach has plagued Levinson before and completely sunk the otherwise appealing "Toys."
Yet, just when it appears that "Avalon" is destined to become lost the charm and beauty returns and we are allowed to again embrace the family we have grown to care about. The film is somewhat reminiscent of Jim Sheridan's "In America," a later film that much more successfully captures the spirit and heart of this time period and experience.
Visually stunning, occasionally frustrating but nearly constantly inspiring, "Avalon" is a film of beauty, simplicity and hope that will make you want to call up your parents and just say
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