Brief Encounters


Meridian, Redmond Town Center, and others

At certain colleges, the show-style marching band—with its brash artistry, airtight musicianship, and incredible grace—can take your breath away. Drumline follows the meteoric rise of Devon (Nick Cannon), a cocky young New York drummer at a fictional Georgia university, but it rarely captures the visceral excitement of true show-style perfection. The romantic subplot between Devon and a pretty dancer named Laila (Zo렓aldana) feels endlessly forced—and thus develops very little heat. To make matters worse, every conflict in the movie, including the ongoing tension between Devon and his section leader, is a study in Hollywood clich鮠Yet Drumline even lacks the slickness of a successful Hollywood product: Ridiculously flat- footed direction and editing place it squarely in the shadow of superior films dealing with similar themes (Bring It On and Go Tigers! come to mind). Drumline does present a few interesting observations about the rigors of performing in a serious collegiate marching band, and the Exciting Finale is, admittedly, a rousing display of classic show-style antics. In the end, however, the film never manages to find a truly original beat. (PG-13) NEAL SCHINDLER



His prize-winning Shower was a hit at SIFF '01, but the barely tolerable sentimentalism director Zhang Yang brought to that picture goes overboard here. That's unfortunate, because Quitting begins with a clever, funny meta-conceit: Suzhou River star Jia Hongsheng plays himself, and his real-life actor parents play themselves, in the true story of how the handsome young performer got hooked on smack during the mid-'90s. In periodic documentary interludes, various real-life figures, including the actor, his loving family members, and Zhang himself, comment on Jia's problems, but the interest created through this self-reflexive artifice gets buried under kitchen-sink drama. Quitting is a basically familiar tortured-artist-in- recovery narrative that might seem daring in China—our hero smokes heroin, listens obsessively to the Beatles, and yells at his mother and father—but is awfully tame by Western standards. Still, Jia's aged parents are quite affecting as they move from the country into their son's squalid, cigarette-strewn apartment and stubbornly stage an intervention. In response, petulant Jia mainly locks himself in his room listening to music, stomps around in a succession of amusingly dated rocker outfits (Ramones, new wave, goth), and cycles through Beijing streets while the soundtrack swells inspirationally. As Jia grudgingly learns to be more sincere, you wish Zhang were less so. (R) BRIAN MILLER

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