Moviecrazed
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CHERISH ***

CAST: Robin Tunney, Tim Blake Nelson, Brad Hunt, Liz Phair, Jason Priestley, Nora Dunn, Lindsay Crouse, Ricardo Gil, Kenny Kwong, Stephen Polk

DIRECTOR: Finn Taylor

Nerdy, needy dot.comer Zoe (Robin Tunney) either says nothing or says far too much in her efforts to gain approval from her colleagues in a San Francisco office where everyone, save Zoe, seems to be cool and groovily gregarious. Zoe dates, but she does not second-date. When her shrink (Lindsay Crouse) asks if her habit of going from one man to another is a source of concern, she seems puzzled. "I don't think I'd go out with so many," she finally answers, "if one would call me back."

A loser, for sure. Never more so than on the night she attends a company party to which she has not been invited and is astonished to find that she has somehow managed to stoke the lust of the office stud (Jason Priestley). But hold on--just as their red-hot moment seems to be approaching, a tipsy-turvy Zoe is kidnapped by a lunatic stalker and ordered to speed away in her own car, with the stranger at her side, barking commands and pushing down on the gas pedal. Before she can say "What hit me?", Zoe has herself hit--and killed--a policeman. The kidnapper, who is of course the true killer, is judged to be a figment of Zoe's alcohol-enhanced imagination, and the accused drunken driver is shoved into a cell with a pair of vexingly aggressive lesbians. Eventually, the bruised but not exactly bowed Zoe lands in "home incarceration"--a surreal, twilight-zone apartment where, alone and wearing electronic ankle-cuffs, she is to await her trial.

Preposterous? Yes, indeed. And I haven't even told you about the man who lives on the first floor of the home-incarceration building, the scrappy little fellow who has learned to cope--though perhaps not all that well--with being crippled, Jewish and gay. Or the exceedingly anal, weirdly attractive police specialist who visits Zoe and tinkers a bit more than necessary with her ankle "bracelet."

Yet, under the sly, inventive direction of Finn Taylor, this madness is consistently entertaining, even if it comes close to falling apart during its implausible Run-Lola-Runesque wrap-up. Taylor, who also wrote the screenplay, hit it lucky with his colorful cast: Tim Blake Nelson, Jason Priestley, Liz Phair and Brad Hunt (memorably disturbing in the small but crucial role of a creepy D.J.) are all fine. Best of all, the actress he picked to play the tough, tender, amazingly resilient Zoe goes from plain to gorgeous with record speed and makes bad behavior seem not only acceptable, but downright enchanting. Robin Tunney is a star very much on the rise.