"I'm not homeless! I live in a cave!"
The Caveman's Valentine
Review by Ross Anthony

Living in a cave of rocks in a New York park, Rom (Jackson) believes a devil-like being emits powerful rays of evil over the city from atop the Chrysler building. Rom's demons (good and bad) also dance a game of "give and take" from just about any corner of his brain. The Caveman's ValentineWhen the tension comes to a boil, multiple superimposed images of orange ballerinas bring the demons/muses to life in an effectively splintered display surfacing in his mind like bubbles. Will they rule him with fear or will he become the choreographer of their intention?

Jackson is as comfortable in this role as dreadlocks on a Rastafarian. He looks and plays great. Kudos to the make-up coordinator.

Into Jackson's primitive, delusional existence comes a single homicide setting Rom on a one-man mission to avenge the victim's death. Disregarded by his police officer daughter as schizophrenic, Rom persistently amasses evidence, uncovering clues with his direct, brutal honesty. Hindered by episodes of dementia, Rom walks the slippery tight rope of sanity. Appearing only to him as if from the dead, his estranged wife speaks like his conscious, sometimes encouraging, sometimes critical, always direct. Rom's primal presence contrasts splendidly against the suit-wearing civilized.

The artistic direction on this film rocks. A photographer's basement work area sharply detailed with implements and props fills the screen like a painting - perfectly lit and exposed on a rich stock of film. Further, I love the choice of music meant to be Rom's composition. His passionate moments at the piano are an audio/visual/emotional treat for the eyes, ears and heart. Rom's dreadlocks resonating like piano strings.

The dialogue, though occasionally sticky, often hosts tasty bites:
Moira, "Arnold tells me you're a genius."
Rom, "Genius at what?"
Moira, "Music."
Rom, "He misrepresents my talent, I can put a match in my mouth and light up my smile like a jack-o'-lantern."

(Btw, he actually performs that trick - a wonderfully haunting image that glows appropriately in this hearty production.)

Though there are many, many excellent scenes (report read on subway train, self-pep talk prior to up-scale party, "balloon" reminiscing scene w/daughter in car, the demon moth images over credits, the music, etc.), there are also more than just a few sticky moments either poorly acted or edited or scripted. While those rough edges don't dominate nor are they potent enough to deter the robust and passionate swell created by the abundant masterfully crafted scenes, they do succeed in denying the production overall greatness.

Still, a very strong B+, "The Caveman's Valentine" simply stirred me.

  • The Caveman's Valentine. Copyright © 2001. Rated R.
  • Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Colm Feore, Ann Magnuson, Damir Andrei, Aunjanue Ellis, Tamara Tunie, Peter McNeill, Jay Rodan, Rodney Eastman, Anthony Michael Hall, Kate McNeil.
  • Directed by Kasi Lemmons.
  • Written by George Dawes Green (based on his novel of same name)
  • Produced by Danny Devito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Elie Samaha, Andrew Stevens at Jersey Shore/Franchise/Universal focus.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:16:29 PDT