Triple threat Burns' first drama his most solid film
I've always thought that Lauren Holly was capable of much more than just playing The Girl in Jim Carrey movies, and "No Looking Back" is the proof.
This blue collar romantic drama, written and directed by Edward Burns ("The Brothers McMullen," "She's The One"), finds Holly center stage as Claudia, a lackadaisical diner waitress badly in need of a spark. Quietly desperate and resentful of her stark existence, she feels trapped by a listless relationship and her lack of resume might.
She is begrudgingly resigned to her life as it is, in a dying seaside New Jersey berg, until ex-lover Charlie (played by Burns) blows in to town. Charlie is a selfish zero with no future, but he's a charming zero that reminds her of a time when she still believed in her dreams.
Holly has the audience in her corner throughout the picture by opening Claudia's heart to us. Even when she rekindles an affair with Charlie behind her loyal boyfriend's back, we understand her motives because of this visceral performance. Despite the fact that Charlie had knocked her up then abandon her some years before, Claudia, a little low on self-esteem despite her stalwart exterior, is still susceptible to his smarmy charisma.
His best picture to date, Burns' story here is surprisingly feminine in it's point of view. In his earlier films, women were largely props for grunting, bonding, beer-swilling fellas. The same type of fellas are in this movie -- Burns is very attached to his journeyman's view of the world -- but seen through Claudia's eyes these men are something a girl settles for when nothing better is available.
Claudia has settled for Mikey, a marriage-minded, nice guy factory worker, played with unexpected sincerity and talent by former feather-haired rocker Jon Bon Jovi.
When cocky Charlie starts brusquely courting her again, the film's atmosphere follows Claudia's bewildered moods of flirtation, heartache and confusion.
Burns' honest direction and brilliantly working class dialogue give "No Looking Back" (lousy title, by the way) a potent sense of place. From cold, blue shots of weeds growing through cracks in an empty concrete playground to the broken-down '70s sedans all the characters drive, the hopelessness of this town is a palpable parallel to Claudia's own disposition.
Although Burns' script occasionally fouls into the pre-fabricated (the old I've Got To Work Things Out For Myself speech leads toward a foreseeable finale), the candid performances give these few generic lines an undeniable truthfulness.
Claudia has a history with abandonment, and there are several parallels drawn to her mother (Blythe Danner), who still pines for Claudia's long-absent father. She also has a sister (Connie Britton) who copes with the same feelings by never getting close to any man. An additional tension is added by the fact that Mikey and Charlie are old drinking buddies.
This film may be Holly's breakthrough performance, but Bon Jovi portrays some of the film's most potent emotions when he gets thrown over for Burns.
Watch for a long close-up of Mikey choking back tears that makes Bon Jovi's whole insipid glam metal history melt away.