pensive jeremy sisto heather grahamm is concerned
geremy sisto in a scene in a bar heather graham photo

Broken

By Sheri Linden

Nov 6, 2006 Walk on the Beach Prods. Addiction and amour fou are one and the same in Broken, in which Heather Graham and Jeremy Sisto play the symbolically named Hope and Will. Much of what unfolds in the L.A.-set drama feels symbolic or overly pointed -- an approach only partly explained by the story's final revelation. Good performances and an intriguingly noirish edge-of-town sensibility go only so far to compensate for an abundance of on-the-nose dialogue in the film, which took its world-premiere bow Saturday at AFI Fest.

The third feature by director Alan White ("Risk," "Erskineville Kings") unfolds mainly over one night in the Blue Star, a 24-hour diner on the outskirts of downtown where wannabe singer-songwriter Hope waits tables. At the same time, her dissolute, unhinged ex, Will, makes his way back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas on a crime-fueled trip that promises to end in disaster. As a "Nighthawks"-style rogue's gallery of patrons fill the booths, offering Hope advice or painful reminders of her own sense of failure, she recalls the ill-fated trajectory of her romance with Will. From a mildly creepy Malibu pickup, they quickly progressed to a shared devotion to heroin -- to the point of gruesome debasement for Hope.

That Will has no vocation other than shooting up makes Hope's involvement with him maddening, but Sisto imbues him with a believably needy, manipulative intensity. And as someone easily led off course from her ambitions, Graham brings a different kind of neediness, unfocused, dazzled and blank.

White also draws some good work from the supporting ensemble of customers, among them two lonely guys waiting to score coke (Jake Busey and Joe Hursley) and a scruffy wacko-as-seer (Tess Harper). Linda Hamilton has a cynical world-weariness as an escort-service entrepreneur, but Hope is more open to offers from a sleazy film producer (Randall Batinkoff) and an Ecstasy-tripping club girl (Jessica Stroup).

Each interaction is believable to a point, but the customers' spiels feel too authorial. Drew Pillsbury's script opts for flavorless dialogue rather than pushing for genre sizzle or deeper into the night-shift fever dream that DP Neil Shapiro effectively evokes. Tracks by Brian Jonestown Massacre fit the mood but should have been used more judiciously.