One of the current television shows that I thoroughly enjoy watching is “The Mentalist.” For the past six seasons, I’ve been rooting for the series’ main protagonist, Patrick Jane, portrayed by Simon Baker, as he has hunted down the malicious serial killer who murdered his wife and daughter – a man who was known only as “Red John.” At the outset of the series, Jane began working as a consultant for a branch of California law enforcement known as the CBI. The unit Patrick joined was the one which was originally assigned to the case of his murdered family members. Through the years, he becomes extraordinarily close to his CBI boss, Agent Teresa Lisbon, a role acquitted excellently by actress Robin Tunney. When I saw that the film “Cherish” was going to be on the Sundance Channel, and that Tunney was the lead, I decided to watch it.
Written and directed by Finn Taylor, (Dream with the Fishes) “Cherish” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 14, 2002. The movie is a mixture of the genres of comedy, drama and thriller, but unfortunately, during its ninety-nine minutes, it doesn’t exactly deliver on any of those cinematic fronts. That is not to imply that the film doesn’t have its positives, it certainly does when it comes to the acting, especially Tunney and Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou). In addition, it features a diverse soundtrack, loaded with hit songs, spanning from 1959 through the 1980s, as well as three songs by Noe Venable, who is an experimental pop and folk singer, with a loyal fan base in her native San Francisco, where the film takes place.
Tunney’s character Zoe is a music loving, socially awkward, computer graphics animator, who is unlucky in love. While at work she overhears her co-workers making plans to get together later that evening. Wanting to join in, she approaches Brynn, (Liz Phair) her boss, inquiring about the get together. She is informed that it is an invite only sort of thing, and Brynn meanly shreds the flyer with the information for the whereabouts of the get together right in front of Zoe. Not to be deterred, Zoe removes the shredded paper from the garbage can, and pieces it back together. She is desperate to attend because Andrew, (Jason Priestley) her office crush will be there.
Once at the bar, Andrew actually seeks Zoe out to talk with her, much to the disappointment of Brynn, and some of the other female co-workers. After a night where Zoe imbibes one too many drinks, Andrew offers her a ride home, which she accepts. She just needs to go to her car to get her cell phone, and she’ll be right back. Once inside her car, as Zoe reaches for her phone, a man, who has been obsessively stalking her, forces her to start up the engine and drive. While waiting at a red light, Zoe attempts to get the attention of a police officer. She manages to do so with her facial gestures, but when she informs her would be kidnapper that the cop is ordering her to pull over, he puts his foot on Zoe’s foot while it is on the gas, and in the process she kills the officer, before crashing the car.
Zoe is arrested for vehicular homicide, and is found to be driving with a blood alcohol level that is twice the legal limit; a fact which garners the ire of the cops, who want to make her pay for taking the life of one of their own. The man whose actions actually caused the death of the police officer and the subsequent crash, that landed Zoe in serious trouble, is nowhere to be found. There is no evidence to suggest the would be kidnapper was ever in her car in the first place, so no one believes Zoe’s story. To make matters worse, Zoe has a prior DWI, which she received in college. Fortunately for Zoe, her lawyer, Saturday Night Live alum Nora Dunn, manages to get Zoe placed under house arrest, in order to delay the trial as long as possible. Zoe will have to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, and will be restricted to the loft her lawyer has arranged for her to live in while awaiting trial. The loft is not only totally lacking any amenities, but is in a very undesirable neighborhood.
For the first part of her house arrest she is visited by no one, and spends her time roller skating around the floor, blasting her music, watching countless hours of television, and making phone calls in an attempt to get some company to come over and visit her. She eventually befriends her downstairs neighbor, Max (Ricardo Gil). The only problem is Max is disabled, and can’t walk up the stairs to spend time with Zoe. The only other company she receives, besides the neighborhood delivery boy, is Nelson’s character, geeky technician, Daly, who is as socially inept and as lonely in his own private life, as Zoe. He periodically stops by to make sure that Zoe’s ankle bracelet has not been tampered with, and while he attempts to keep things professional, he can’t help but fall in love with Zoe.
The relationship that’s built up over time between the two, as well as his unspoken love for her, is what leads to her receiving a small window of freedom. Nelson’s character, against his better judgment, manipulates the computer system that monitors the ankle bracelets, and takes the supreme risk of Zoe just taking off, to avoid facing her upcoming trial. He knows, as does she, that if found guilty, she could be facing as much as twenty years to life.
Will Zoe flee and leave Daly to face the consequences of not only losing his job, but receiving his own prison sentence? Does she have enough time to gather evidence against the person she feels has ruined her life by framing her? Is the stalker still watching her, waiting for his opportunity to finish what he started? The problem with Cherish, as I said initially, is that it doesn’t deliver on any of its purported genres. Yes, there is drama, but, to also be billed as both a comedy and a thriller does the film a big disservice. There were few if any laughs, and with the exception of a scene or two at the end, there was very little I considered thrilling. I do think, as I stated earlier, that Tunney and Nelson do an excellent job with what they had to work with. If you are fans of either of the leads, then it is worth checking out. As long as you don’t expect too much, it should be enjoyable enough for one viewing.