Picks and Pans Review: If These Walls Could Talk 2

updated 03/06/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/06/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

HBO (Sun., March 5, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

Yes, you heard the buzz correctly. Sharon Stone and Ellen DeGeneres have a sex scene here. So do Chloƫ Sevigny (an Oscar nominee for Boys Don't Cry) and Michelle Williams (Dawson's Creek). But of the three lesbian-themed stories in this film, the one that inspires the most feeling is the one that generates the least heat.

Like If These Walls Could Talk, HBO's 1996 abortion drama, this is a trilogy set in the same house in three different decades. In "1961," exquisitely crafted by writer-director Jane Anderson (The Baby Dance), Vanessa Redgrave gives a quietly heartbreaking performance as an elderly woman left alone by the death of her longtime companion (Marian Seldes). Though Redgrave is very much a widow in spirit, Seldes's nephew (Paul Giamatti) and his wife (Elizabeth Perkins) treat her like an outsider of dubious standing. Thus grief is compounded by indignity.

In "1972," college student Williams falls for butch Sevigny. The main characters strike sparks, but Williams's disapproving feminist friends are stereotypes. "2000" offers Stone and DeGeneres (directed by her partner Anne Heche, who also wrote the script) as a lesbian couple trying to have a child. DeGeneres delivers an affecting speech on the limited power of love, but the sperm-bank humor is not exactly subtle.

Bottom Line: One-third superb

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