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Movie Review: Clean

Alternate Title: Mommie Dearest

Story: French director Oliver Assaya added his personal drama to this tale of melancholy, addiction, aging rock 'n rollers, motherhood, forgiveness and redemption by having his starring wife sign their divorce papers on the set. Ouch!

Emily Wang in a Yoko Ono like role had been hooked up with aging rocker Lee Hauser. Their drug addiction had ruined his career and he'd been reduced to playing bad clubs and staying in rotten motels. He overdoses, she goes to jail for heroin possession (this all takes place in Canada) and their young son remains in the care of his loving parents. Emily tries to clean up her act to regain custody. It is a long, hard struggle.

This oft-told tale does not unfold in the usual style. There are no big moments, just lots of vignettes as we watch Emily struggle. The film's melancholy is enhanced by not one ray of sunshine regardless of the global sets. Throughout Canada, Paris and London is seems to be raining the entire film.

It is beautifully shot, interesting to watch but I never quite connected with the main female character. If you like good acting, character studies and stories of redemption, check out this Cannes 2004 Best Female Actor.

Acting: I am a BIG Nick Nolte fan. He was terrific in this film as the grandfather. He was understated and was a strong presence in every scene he played. I was nervous at first glance because his opening shot reminded me of his infamous arrest photo. But he got cleaned up and was great. Maggie Chueng is wonderful as multi-lingual Emily. She must have deserved her Cannes award.

Predilection: I repeat - I am a BIG Nick Nolte fan.

Critters: There is a London Zoo scene with zebras, giraffes and baboons.

Food: She works as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant so we get lots of yummy looking dishes.

Blatant Product Placement: Galoises cigarettes.

Soundtrack: Very strong and interesting.

Theater Audience: A handful of cinephiles.

Sappy Factor: 0

Squirm Scale: 1 - drug addiction is not pretty.

Drift Factor: I drifted a bit in the middle.

Oscar Worthy: No - but obviously Cannes worthy.

Nit Picking: I am not a big fan of the digital jiggly camera.

Big Screen or Rental: Rental would be fine. Since I am such a BIG Nick Nolte fan, how about renting some of these favor ties of mine: Hotel Rwanda, The Good Thief, The Thin Red Line, Affliction, U Turn, Afterglow, Nightwatch, Mother Night, Lorenzo's Oil, The Prince of Tides, Q & A, Farewell to the King, (New York Stories, Weeds, Down and Out in Beverly Hills,48 Hrs, Cannery Row, Heart Beat, North Dallas Forty, Who'll Stop the Rain and The Deep

Length: Two hours.