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The Idol (L'Idol) (September 16/02)

In The Idol, Leelee Sobieski delivers her entire performance (save a short sequence featuring a phone call) in French. And, even more stunning, James Hong (best known for playing the maitre 'd in the Chinese Restaurant episode of Seinfeld) does the same. It's an interesting gimmick, taking two actors primarily known for their English-speaking roles, but it's just not enough to elevate this dull film to anything more.

Hong stars as a Zao, a retired cook living alone in an apartment. His day-to-day life consists mostly of routine; he meets with a fellow retiree, waters his plants, etc. But his predictable lifestyle is thrown for a loop with the arrival of Sarah (Sobieski), a free-spirited girl who instantly captures the interest and attention of virtually everyone in the building. Zao lives the closest to Sarah, so when she has an electrical problem, she asks for his help. They get to talking, and soon find themselves spending more and more time together.

The Idol manages to lumber along for close to two-hours without introducing any sort of a plot. The whole thing is supposed to coast along on the perceived charm of these two characters, and their unorthodox relationship. But the problem is, they're just not interesting. We never really find out enough about either character to care about what happens to them. And though their relationship never becomes sexual, it comes awfully close with Sarah frequently disrobing in front of Zao. Their odd friendship is essentially all the film has going for it, and though director Samantha Lang seems to think it's just quirky enough to propel the story forward, it's really not. There's nothing unique or special about an old guy and a young girl (Bob Balaban's The Last Good Time, with Armin Mueller-Stahl and Olivia d'Abo, had a similar storyline but was far more effective), and Lang never bothers to bring anything new to the table.

The Idol might be worth a look if the idea of watching the guy from Big Trouble in Little China speak French for two hours appeals to you, but otherwise don't bother.

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