Jennifer Reese
January 31, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

Surveillance

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
97 minutes
Limited Release Date
06/26/09
performer
Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman
director
Jennifer Chambers Lynch
author
Jennifer Chambers Lynch, Kent Harper
genre
Mystery and Thriller, Drama

We gave it a B

Chick, the irrepressible illegal Chinese immigrant Jonathan Raban introduced in his lovely 2003 novel, Waxwings, resurfaces in Surveillance with a spiffy new identity: Charles O, Seattle parking-lot tycoon. Set in the paranoid near future, an era of National Identity cards and preposterous Homeland Security histrionics, Raban’s sequel finds Charles fixing up an apartment building he’s acquired and wondering if one of his tenants, Lucy Bengstrom, might make a suitable bride.

In a novel filled with misapprehensions, this one takes the cake. Lucy, a harried single mom and journalist, thinks he’s a pest; her neighbor Tad, an embittered gay actor who regularly appears in government-staged terrorist scenarios, sees Charles O as ”a smarmy shyster” and begins looking into his sketchy past. After Lucy is assigned to profile a best-selling Holocaust memoirist whose account she suspects may be fabricated, she embarks on her own snooping.

Raban writes about human foibles with authentic warmth and insight. But while Waxwings felt open-ended — like the delicate characters might take flight, if only briefly — this overdetermined follow-up is so freighted with hot-button cultural issues (fraudulent life stories, stolen identities, government surveillance) his likable human creations can never quite dig out from beneath them. B

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