2001-10-04 / Arts & Entertainment

Film Of Stephen King Tale Is "Beautiful And Poignant"

Film Of Stephen King Tale Is "Beautiful And Poignant"

Film Of Stephen King Tale Is "Beautiful And Poignant"

Anthony Hopkins and Anton Yelchin in "Hearts In Atlantis."				  cWarner BrothersAnthony Hopkins and Anton Yelchin in "Hearts In Atlantis." cWarner Brothers

By Christy LeMire

AP Entertainment Writer

"Hearts in Atlantis’’ amasses a team of major moviemaking power for a personal, intimate story.

Director Scott Hicks, nominated for an Academy Award for "Shine,’’ creates a golden, glowing mood that’s consistent and complete throughout this small coming-of-age story.

The screenplay from William Goldman, an Oscar winner for "All the President’s Men" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," is, as you would expect, crisp, honest and human.

And Anthony Hopkins, as a wanderer who rents a room in the house where a boy lives with his widowed mother, has crafted a textured, fascinating figure.

The film is beautiful and poignant, but deliberately paced and with no real surprises. If you’ve seen the ads, you know the players and you know Stephen King, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting when you walk into this.

"Hearts in Atlantis’’ is the latest adaptation of a King story, but it’s a hybrid of two earlier films based on the author’s works.

It has the melancholy childhood memories of "Stand By Me" crossed with the mysterious psychic stranger of "The Green Mile." But that’s fine, because those are two of the strongest King adaptations.

The flashback structure recalls "Stand by Me," with a middle-aged narrator (David Morse) who returns to his hometown for the funeral of an old friend and reflects on his youth.

Bobby Garfield (played as a child by Anton Yelchin) recalls the summer of 1960, when he turned 11, and Ted Brautigan (Hopkins) became a new boarder at the house he shared with his mother (Hope Davis).

Bobby’s dad died when he was 5, and he turns to Ted as a father figure. His two best friends, Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully (Will Rothhaar), also take to him, spending long afternoons reading and playing games on the front porch.

Ted’s a little sketchy about his background, but he has an amazing ability of knowing everything that goes on, and he always happens to be in the right place when Bobby and his friends are in danger. He also warns that some "low men" are after him — men who wear wide-brimmed hats and dark clothes and drive flashy cars — and asks Bobby to watch out for them.

The movie is a little vague about the bad guys. Are they real? And what exactly do they want from him? It has something to do with his psychic abilities, but we never know.

No matter. The movie’s really about the summer that Bobby grew up, and entire scenes look like they were lifted straight from "Stand by Me.’’ Bobby and his friends spend their days frolicking in the woods with the golden sunlight streaming through the trees, and running along the railroad tracks.

The performances are uniformly excellent, especially from Davis as Bobby’s conflicted, self-absorbed mother whose loss of innocence mirrors her son’s. But the kids are the ones who steal the show.

It’s astonishing that the filmmakers found child actors who are so smart and poised, so real, without an ounce of cloying precociousness.

Boorem is utterly charming as Carol, Bobby’s neighbor with whom he experiences his first kiss. She also stood out earlier this year in the silly, convoluted "Along Came a Spider" and as Mel Gibson’s daughter last year in "The Patriot."

And Yelchin, who also appeared in "Along Came a Spider," holds his own magnificently with Hopkins. He brings to Bobby the perfect combination of goofy kid and blossoming adult. Watching him in the film’s wistful final moments will send you from the theater feeling bittersweet.

"Hearts in Atlantis,’’ a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 for violence and thematic elements. Running time: 98 minutes.

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