Tom Hanks drew a great deal of attention and acclaim for the hiatus he took in the middle of filming “Cast Away” to dump a few pounds, grow out his hair and stink up any awards show that he attended. Hanks” beard received almost as much praise as the actor”s performance, which earned him yet another Oscar nomination. Just this past weekend, while a clean-shaven Hanks was chilling at the Academy Awards, he was displaced atop the mountain of movie hair by the ferocious collection of dreadlocks and equally impressive beard sported by Samuel L. Jackson in the new film “The Caveman”s Valentine.”
Unruly mops aside, “The Caveman”s Valentine” is a murder-mystery which centers on the investigation of a dead body that Romulus (Jackson), known to many in New York City as the Caveman, finds outside of the cave that he lives in on Valentine”s Day.
Romulus is quite an interesting character to center a film around he”s a talented piano player who dropped out of Julliard and chooses to live in a cave rather than conform to the ways of society. He also suffers from a variety of visions, which he calls “brain typhoons,” and it”s because of this that we”re never quite sure whether or not to trust what comes out of his mouth. Romulus gets much of his information from watching a television set that isn”t plugged in and believes that he is being spied on by a mysterious being who lives above the city. Other characters have similar issues of whether or not to believe Romulus and the police decline to pursue the leads he digs up on the murder case.
Needless to say, Romulus is headed down the right path in the investigation, but it takes him and us a fair amount of time to figure out who”s behind the murder. The best parts of the movie come when Romulus scratches at the truth and the story dares us to believe that he”s onto something. The film”s conclusion, which should catch the majority of viewers off-guard, does a nice job of tying together all of the story”s loose ends and also allows Romulus a chance at redemption in his own eyes and those of his daughter (who”s a police officer working on the dead body case).
Jackson is his usual stellar self in the role although he looks pretty ridiculous with his hair and beard job. And other than Jackson, there aren”t really any recognizable faces in the cast (save Anthony Michael Hall in a brief role) and this works to the movie”s advantage. The use of unknowns allows us to concentrate more on the characters and rather than the performances of the actors. The cast blends seamlessly into the story, just as they should.
Director Kasi Lemmons (“Eve”s Bayou”) goes to great lengths to take us into Romulus” mind, showing us some of the demons that he fights to make it through each day. From the film”s beginning we are met with a barrage of twisted images which really overstay their welcome. Lemmons wants to make things a little more artistic than they needs to be and this ends up being the film”s main flaw. It feels like she”ll never just let a scene play out before us, there always has to be something that sets each scene apart from the norm. Lemmons has the makings of a great film at her fingertips, and yet her desire to dress things up with jarring cuts and jazzy images prevents “The Caveman”s Valentine” from being even a good film.