Real people who have experienced near-death situations sometimes report that they did indeed see their lives pass before their eyes in quick review. Any one of their stories -- however unremarkable, unglamorous, or unsuitable to the casting of Richard Gere in the starring role -- would carry more emotional impact than the soulless saga unreeled in Intersection (Paramount, R).
This is quite an accomplishment, since cheating death and succumbing to death are two of the movies' great fountains of eternal plot life: Cheaters get to enact remorse, atonement, and the uplifting resolution to be more grateful human beings (think of Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life); the dying and dead get to bequeath that opportunity to their chastened and grieving loved ones (think of Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment). In Intersection, about the only thing Richard Gere leaves to his wife and his girlfriend -- Sharon Stone and Lolita Davidovich -- and to his audience is an appreciation of his handsome shaggy silver hair.
The story was adapted by David Rayfiel and Marshall Brickman from the French novel and 1970 Claude Sautet film, Les Choses de la Vie (The Things of Life). Indeed, in the architectural skeleton of the plot (as Gere, playing an architect named Vincent Eastman, might say), one can imagine a moody Gallic étude: A man is tormented by having to choose between a comfortable, emotionally distant life with his wife and 13-year-old daughter and an unpredictable, passionate, go-for-the-gusto life with his lover. He agonizes. He dithers. He makes one choice, has an epiphany, makes another, then leaps into his car (in Hollywood's case, a snazzy Mercedes). As he speeds toward his Chosen One along a winding two-lane road (in Hollywood's case, in splendidly scenic and cost-efficient Vancouver), his story unfolds in flashback (about a man who is torn and who must choose, etc.). Then fate (plus a stalled minivan and an oncoming tractor-trailer) intervenes.
Out of what might have been a prettily calibrated cautionary tale about the ephemeral nature of life and the delicate intersection of choice and consequence, desire and responsibility, fine German automotive engineering and unwieldy rigs, director Mark Rydell (who brought his heavy Hollywood machinery to On Golden Pond and For the Boys) has soldered a chugging star vehicle: This little story is gilded with Expensive Good Taste (a fin de '80s movie, really, misplaced in the '90s) and Expensive Stars who have never exactly been known for playing small and subtle.
Gere, in soft washed-silk shirts, tries for torment at his dilemma but settles for a soft washed-silk passivity; even in his rain-drenched epiphany, he appears to be conserving his energy. (For what?) As Olivia Marshak -- the Other Woman -- Davidovich tosses her tumble of red hair and displays a colorful, artsy wardrobe meant to signify that she is full of juicy Life Force. She tries for kooky sexiness but settles for being a '40s-era ditz. (Olivia, by the way, is a very glamorous magazine columnist at a glamorous Vancouver magazine, and should therefore know that glam-mag people wear only black. At all times.)
As for Sharon Stone, the actress has promoted the news that she wanted to play the fully clothed, sexually cool, classy wife -- her Grace Kelly incarnation -- rather than assume her more expected lips-open, legs-apart position as the hot girlfriend. Thus, as Sally Eastman, she is gorgeously dressed in a pale cream and beige palette, and her hair is pulled back and plaited in a complicated breakfast Danish. Her eyes are riveting and she's fascinating to watch --a real star. But Stone juts out at odd angles in Intersection like a tractor-trailer on the Hollywood highway of plausibility. You think: Oh, no, this morality tale is going to crash! Then you think: Well, at least the victims were wearing nice underwear. C-