THE CAVEMAN'S VALENTINE directed by Kasi Lemmons, written by George Dawes Green from his novel, produced by Danny DeVito, Scott Frank, Elie Samaha, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher, with Samuel L. Jackson, Aunjanue Ellis, Colm Feore, Ann Magnuson and Anthony Michael Hall. 105 minutes. A Jersey Shore production. A Universal release. Opens Friday (March 16). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 91. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
on the evidence of eve's bayou and The Caveman's Valentine, Kasi Lemmons has the potential to make an actual great movie. I suspect, though, as I do with Quentin Tarantino, that that potential depends on the director's uncanny rapport with Samuel L. Jackson. Still, not bad for someone who, prior to Eve's Bayou, was best known for playing Jodie Foster's FBI roommate in The Silence Of The Lambs.
Here, Jackson is the caveman, Romulus Ledbetter, a man who might have been a great concert pianist but became a delusional schizophrenic instead.
He lives in a cave in a New York park, where he watches a TV that has no picture and waits for the imaginary bad guys to come for him. In the meantime, he has visions that seem to have come from a lesser John Greyson video, though there's no indication that Romulus is gay.
One day he finds a corpse in a nearby tree. The police dismiss the victim as a homeless guy.
At the behest of one of his homeless friends, Romulus feels compelled to solve the mysterious death.
This may be the most remarkable conception for a mystery in some time -- the detective as delusional schizophrenic (though we night note that the detective as total amnesiac is on its way in Memento). Jackson and Lemmons almost pull it off, half because of the latter's jittery visual stylishness and half because there's no one in contemporary movies who holds the screen like Jackson, even under 3-foot dreads.
Romulus may be crazy, but he's not stupid. And he has enough high-society experience to almost be able to pass into the high-art echelons of David Leppenraub (Colm Feore) and his sister (Ann Magnuson), but not enough medication to sustain the illusion.
Just as a bit of domestic trivia, Lemmons is married to Vondie Curtis-Hall, another actor-director, whose first film, Gridlock'd, was made the same year Lemmons made Eve's Bayou. His second feature, All That Glitters, aka that Mariah Carey movie, scheduled for release this fall, also features Ann Magnuson.*