THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Monday, April 10, 1995 TAG: 9504080031 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E6 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: Medium: 100 lines
``EVERY WOMAN IS a mystery to be solved,'' the young Don Juan declares, with a sincerity that can be questioned but never vanquished.
With unbridled passion, he explains how, at age 10, he first saw a woman standing at an open window one moonlit night and noticed the way ``her underwear followed and caressed the curves of her body, as if on a cushion of air.''
It was at this moment, he vows, ``I learned how a woman is to be touched.''
Don Juan has the confidence to claim, ``no woman has ever left my arms unsatisfied.''
Johnny Depp delivers the line with a straight face.
Before you start clutching this newspaper and panting, be aware that I am writing here about a comedy - a very rare comedy, that dares to play itself seriously and to take unusual risks.
Still, when you see ``Don Juan DeMarco'' (and you should, by all means), park near the exit. You may want to rush home.
These are the cynical, unromantic 1990s and anyone who tries to make a romantic movie, at least one this over-ripe, is likely to be laughed off the screen. But no one told Jeremy Leven that you can't make a movie like this anymore. Levin, a novelist who once made his living as a clinical psychiatrist, is, at middle-age, directing his first movie. It is an impressive debut, indeed. Working from his own script, his way is paved by a three-star powerhouse that drives the film with remarkably unpredictable force.
As the film opens, a young man in a cape and mask is atop a billboard, threatening to jump to his death. Even though he claims to be Don Juan and has, according to him, successfully seduced and satisfied 1,000 women, he has been rejected by his one true love. When he looked into her eyes, according to him, he could see his unborn children there.
Don Juan, or at least the guy who thinks he's Don Juan, is promptly put into a mental asylum.
After all, these are the unromantic '90s, right?
In any case, he promptly seduces all the nurses. They are soon taking more Valium than the patients.
Depp, fast evolving as our most unpredictable and interesting young actor, dares to read all his lines with total sincerity. Even Errol Flynn, in his heyday, would have had to add a touch of humor to lines this brimming with lovey-dovey stuff. Depp, to his credit, never gives a hint that he doesn't take his role, or his women, seriously.
The audience shifts uncomfortably. They're accustomed to bare flesh spread all over every screen in town, but they're not used to TALK this frank. There is a lot of talk about love in ``Don Juan DeMarco.'' Depp is dispatched to Dr. Jack Mickler, played by the unusually overweight legend, Marlon Brando. Brando plays a burned-out therapist who is waiting for retirement but asks for 10 days to evaluate Don Juan. The patient promptly regales him with fantastic stories about past sexual conquests and adventures. The doctor listens carefully.
So carefully, in fact, that he goes home and sparks his formerly lagging marriage to Faye Dunaway.
There is the remarkable sight here of Brando actually acting like a real human being rather than an actor showing off. Brando even suggests comic timing here, something he couldn't do in ``Teahouse of the August Moon,'' ``The Countess from Hong Kong'' or ``Bedtime Story.'' In early scenes, he does a Brando imitation, but he soon settles down to convince us he is actually a repressed romantic.
The scene in which he and Dunaway play with popcorn in bed is delightful. In fact, even the usually neurotic Dunaway makes us wish there was more of her in this film.
Movies and theater have for years expounded on the theory that the insane are more sane than the sane. We wanted to believe that ``Harvey,'' the big, white rabbit, really did exist. We believed that Edmund Gwenn was Santa in ``Miracle on 34th Street.'' Here, it is very easy to go along with the fantasies of a guy who is in love with love.
Levin, late in the game, throws in a bit of levity. The stuffy doctors want to give the Don a drug that will cure him of his ``delusions.'' Of course, the audience, by now, should be rooting for just the opposite. The ending comes perilously close to going overboard, but no matter. You'll leave this flick feeling better than you entered. ILLUSTRATION: NEW LINE CINEMA
Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando and Faye Dunaway star in ``Don Juan
DeMarco,'' a film in which Depp is in love with love.
``Don Juan DeMarco''
Cast: Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, Rachel Ticotin,
Director and Writer: Jeremy Leven
Music: Michael Kamen
MPAA rating: PG-13 (Hot talk, but mostly talk. Call it romantic.
Mal's rating: ****
Locations: Lynnhaven 8, Columbus Station, Surf-N-Sand, Kempsriver
Crossing in Virginia Beach, Janaf, Main Gate in Norfolk, Movies 10