Picks and Pans Review: Independence Day

updated 02/14/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/14/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

The title refers to the day on which Kathleen Quinlan, a spunky aspiring photographer, must decide if she will leave the stifling small fictional town of Mercury, N.Mex. Can she desert her dying mother, her father and her boyfriend, David Keith, to pursue an art school scholarship in L.A.? Keith (last seen as Richard Gere's lovesick crony in An Officer and a Gentleman) wants her to stay. He's dropped out of college, pumps gas, and is going for his fourth straight July 4 local drag race trophy. "I've been out of Mercury," he pleads, "and there's nothing out there." Along the way to the Big Decision, writer Alice Hoffman and director Robert Mandel show us that Middle American life in Mercury can be about as bizarre as life in the big city. Dianne Wiest, as Keith's emotionally brittle sister, and Cliff DeYoung, as her abusive husband, provide a sinister background that heightens Quinlan's quest for psychic and geographic emancipation. Quinlan acts with a piercing, quirky intelligence; Keith, with his earnestly creasing brow, again proves he is underappreciated. There are few fireworks and little to celebrate in this somber drama, but it is absorbing. (R)

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