Picks and Pans Review: Lone Star

updated 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Peña, Joe Morton, Kris Kristofferson

Like perfume that lingers on a scarf long after you've worn it, a great movie stays with you for days. When you're in the shower or just walking down the street, you find yourself mulling over themes, remembering dialogue, or making connections between scenes or characters you didn't make while sitting in the dark. Lone Star, a sprawling tale about the push and pull of family and community history, is a great movie with exactly that kind of staying power.

Using the inhabitants of a small, fictional Texas border town to tell his story, writer-director John Sayles (Passion Fish) looks at the way his characters have let their pasts affect—and restrict—their presents and futures. His hero is a sheriff (Cooper) whose father, a revered figure, was the sheriff before him. When a body, long buried, is unearthed out in the desert, Cooper begins an investigation that threatens his father's reputation, some of the town's most prominent citizens, and even a romance he has rekindled with an old high school sweetheart (Peña).

All of this is done with vivid, complex characters, much humor, a corker of a story, and nimble performances by a large cast. Sayles takes his own sweet time letting his story unfold, traveling back and forth between the present and the past, but this is a journey well worth taking. (R)

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