One day you ask your neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar. The next, you win an Oscar for The Last King of Scotland. Then your neighbor asks you to act in his movie. And? And it's hard to be too indignant about Forest Whitaker's small, heartfelt contribution to this spiritual exercise-cum-vanity project by writer-director-star Philippe Caland, who once devised the story for that '90s crash-and-burn Madonna/David Lynch fiasco Boxing Helena. (Maybe they go to church, or do work, together.) Caland plays an L.A. rag-trade maven in midlifecrisis mode, despite his adoring wife (Virginia Madsen) and daughter. He's also Arab-American, which gives Ripple Effect its deepest, if unexplored, pebble to consider. As an illegal immigrant, we learn, Caland once ruined Whitaker's life, but wouldn't risk deportation to report the accident. Fifteen years later, a prosperous yet unhappy citizen, he seeks to make amends with jolly guru Whitaker (the anti-Idi), who already has a flock of Brentwood Buddhists at his feet. (Minnie Driver plays Whitaker's slutty wife, a PCH roadhouse singer.) Karmically challenged Caland wants absolution; in return, Whitaker refuses any anger or recrimination. The resulting sunrise epiphanies make one wonder what Lynch would've done with Whitaker and Driver's open, kinky marriage, but that's another movie. In this one, an addlebrained New Age quest, Whitaker declares, "Life is guiding us to something, trying to nudge us in the right direction." To which his wife replies, "Honey, this is crazy." Oh, Minnie, you were never so right.
Whitaker doesnt need healing, but he can heal you!
Opens at Uptown, Fri., Sept. 5. Rated R. 82 minutes.