Nobody's Fool

(Evelyn Purcell, USA, 1986)


Nobody's Fool is written by Beth Henley, who signed the play and screenplay of Crimes of the Heart (1986), helped out David Byrne with the dialogue for True Stories (1986), and whose particular vision of Southern womanhood reached an apotheosis of sorts in the curious and somewhat hysterical Miss Firecracker (1989).

Henley was presented during the '80s as part of a certain dubious trend in American filmmaking, a trend claimed even to constitute (in the language of hype) a veritable revival: all those quirky little films about resolutely normal people doing variously wacky, banal or murderous things.

As a definable genre, this one quickly got well out of hand, mixing films that see very straight, such as the incomparable River's Edge (1986) with those (like True Stories) that condescend like crazy.

Nobody's Fool falls somewhere in the middle. Its director, Evelyn Purcell, only resurfaced in feature film terms much later with the equally overlooked Borderline (2002). Her debut film has an unfortunate touch of making everyday life into a freak show of goons, nuts and quirks.

But its heart is located firmly in the observation of the growing love relationship – fumbling and inarticulate but intense – between Cassie (Rosanna Arquette) and Riley (Eric Roberts), and this heart beats quite powerfully.

Like in all of Henley's works, this one is to be valued for the moments of intense, sticky, emotional discomfort or even embarrassment it causes in the viewer.

© Adrian Martin November 1987

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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