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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Truth, hearsay and forgiveness in '80s America, 2 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: The Unbelievable Truth [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
If you can look past a poor first twenty minutes, the ridiculousness of Adrienne Shelly's character Audrey, and a heavy-handed script where the issues of "deals" between the characters is concerned, there's a decent film in 'The Unbelievable Truth'. Robert Burke is excellent as Josh Hutton, a mechanic who has been recently released from prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend's father, a conviction about which, rumour, uncertainty and exaggeration abound, in the hometown he returns to. His relationship with Shelly's Audrey is well played by both actors, and the sense of chemistry between the leads is one of the best facets of the film. Hartley's script has a fairly good blend of poignancy and razor-edged satire, and the film moves along at a fair pace. There's also a choppy, guitar-heavy score which is good in the right scenes (though awkwardly placed in some parts of the film). 'The Unbelievable Truth' is also a film which looks and sounds quite good, with its stylish cinematography and unexpected cuts. Perhaps most impressively, though, the film handles the issue and nature of Josh's 'crimes' sensitively and with a real level-headedness.

As a whole though, 'The Unbelievable Truth' never quite holds together. Audrey's obsession with the end of the world and nuclear issues is almost cringeworthy in its attempt to satirise left-wing youth culture, and the script produces too many one-dimensional characters, like Audrey's lovestruck ex-boyfriend Emmet (whose one character facet seems to be shoving any man who looks at Audrey), whilst, out of keeping with her romantic side with Josh, she repeatedly tells him, "you disgust me". Such character iconsistency might be Hartley's attempt to show the changeable nature of teenagers, but it feels clunky, and makes Audrey a less engaging character than she could be. The film's middle section is superb, especially when an excellent Chris Cook (playing Audrey's father) delivers a veiled speech over a nude modelling spread his daughter does, but at the film's close, Hartley seems unable to know what to do with his characters, and proceedings fizzle out, as opposed to ending with a bang. A mixture of charming and awkward, compelling and clumsy, 'The Unbelievable Truth' is worth watching, but its flaws keep it from being as good as much of Hartley's later work.
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