The Turning (1997)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Don't Mess With My Sister!

Heavenly Creatures

Rebel Without A Cause

The Turning

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

"I just don't feel right without
my trench coat and flashlight."

There's only one conceivable reason for watching The Turning, and that's the same reason the film was released on video: it features, however briefly, the unclad mammaries of Gillian Anderson. Anderson, otherwise known as Agent Dana Scully from TV's incredibly popular X-Files, did her early dues-paying as a young actress in this goofy and depressing small-town drama.

The Turning is based on a play called "Home Fires Burning," and it's obvious that the source material was meant to be presented on stage: there are lots of scenes in which characters do nothing in particular besides sit around and talk. Contrast this to other movies in which characters sit around and talk, but do it in interesting locales or while doing something that doesn't look silly on stage, like driving a car.

At any rate, the story focuses on Clifford Harnish (Michael Dolan), a young man who returns to his home town of Pocahontas, Virginia, after an absence of four years. Cliff has apparently been hanging out with Neo-Nazis, because his new mission in life is to rebuild his family while wearing swastikas. Unfortunately, his arrival coincides with the day his parents' divorce is made final. When he discovers his mother, Martha (Tess Harper), sinking into an alcoholic depression and his father's new life with a different woman (played by Karen Allen), Cliff decides to take matters into his own hands.

Believing Glory, Dad's new girlfriend, to be the cause of the divorce, Cliff decides to terrorize her into leaving his father, Mark (Raymond J. Barry). Cliff arrives at her house and slips in under false pretenses. He warns her to stay away from Mark, and tells her to show up at the lake the next morning, where Mark and Cliff will be fishing, to break off the relationship in Cliff's presence.

Instead, Glory decides to expose Cliff in Mark's presence (a decision no one in real life would make, considering she had ample opportunity to talk to Mark before the fishing trip), and Mark must then decide how to reconcile his love for his son with his repulsion for the psychotic hate-monger that Cliff has become. Lots of dramatic speeches result, including one scene in which everybody seems to be holding everybody else at gun point -- with only one gun in the room.

The scene in question.
But we can tell that our discerning readers really don't care about the psycho plot of this sick coming-home drama; they want to read about Gillian Anderson and what does or doesn't appear on screen. The tape we screened was released by a small distributor named Leo Films and featured two previews, one for a low budget sci-fi John Woo rip-off, the other for what looked like the Australian version of Thelma and Louise. The cover proudly declares that The Turning features Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame, complete with logo. The tape's box art prominently features Ms. Anderson, to the exclusion of any other actors who were in the film, and shows her unbuttoning the top button of her dress.

So, what part does she play in the movie? You may have noticed that she was not mentioned in our plot synopsis above. This was apparently her first movie work, as she is listed in the credits as "And Introducing Gillian Anderson." She plays April, a waitress at a local diner. We would estimate her screen time at less than ten minutes. It turns out she was Cliff's girlfriend before he left town years before, and, in the only scene most of you reading this care about, she and Cliff have sex on a kitchen floor.

The question then becomes: is watching this movie worth a glimpse of Scully's secondary sexual characteristics? Alas, not by a long shot. The movie was shot in a real town, and the production looks very authentic, which is why the pretentious and circuitous dialogue stands out as being so fake. No one in this real situation would act like these characters, or say the things these characters say. And the ending is particularly bad; it left us feeling unfulfilled. If you must rent it, do so, but don't say we didn't warn you.

(Note: To dispel the notion that we are total sexist pigs, we are actively looking for some embarrassing early work David Duchovny may have done. Unfortunately, it seems he did most of his early work wearing a dress and heels, so finding anything that would be comparatively embarrassing is a real chore. We would also point to our equal-opportunity embarrassment of the cast of Mad About You.)

Own it!

Review date: 12/2/1997

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