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cast: Britney Spears, Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning, Anson Mount, Kim Cattrall

director: Tamra Davis

93 minutes (PG) 2001
Momentum VHS rental
Also available to buy or rent on DVD
[released 21 October]

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Richard Bowden

TM & ©2001 by Filmco Enterprises Inc.
All Rights Reserved.
One of the things Crossroads is about is the awakening of old relationships and the making of new ones. Lucy (Britney Spears), Kit (Zoe Saldana), and Mimi (Taryn Manning) were once very close in childhood and pledged friendship forever. Years later, we find they have grown apart. Spears' parents are separated and she has an overbearing father (Dan Aykroyd) intent on pushing her into medical school. Kit, self-centred and with a fiancé in Los Angeles, feels her old friends are beneath her. Mimi is pregnant, but she still hopes to make a career in show business. For different reasons they all end up in a car driven by Justin (Anson Mount) on the way to L.A. and differences soon set in...
   Spears' debut movie turns out to be a lightweight chick flick, pleasing if ultimately unmemorable. Crossroads, written for the star, not unexpectedly plays around the Spears' persona, a much-hyped virginal nature in which one can choose to believe or not. Her attempts to have it both ways is manifest in the song '(I'm) Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman' while the film's major vocal set-pieces (bedroom, karaoke and final concert) together form an arc, taking the singer from daddy's girl to performing woman of some experience. Blonde, clean and slightly bland, Spears' nearest screen equivalent is probably Doris Day. But while making a game enough effort at playing the undemanding part of Lucy, she lacks a Rock Hudson-type to play against. The character of the rough-and-ready Justin (in whose car the three girls spend much of the time) is comparatively underwritten, lacking the balance and irony required.
   Spears gives an understated performance which is not as bad as some critics have made out, although it is hard for her to overcome the dullness of a character whose most dramatic moment (for many viewers) is to dance around her bedroom in her underwear. The long-telegraphed dalliance with Justin, his tattooed back and all; is in stark contrast to the hesitation she shows earlier when the inexperienced Henry (Justin Long) tried to bed her. Clearly Lucy has discovered something about herself along the road, best demonstrated by her final move to independence from her father. What this is exactly, apart from a preference for amenable ex-cons, is uncertain. Her failure to articulate herself either before and after her journey (although her dissatisfaction with her life is hinted at) is regrettable, for it leaves her character's potential unfulfilled the audience none the wiser. This is not helped by the fact that her crucial interview with her mother, exactly the time when Lucy would have been most emotionally exposed is omitted, and related by her only briefly in retrospect. Lucy is too private for her own good.
   While Lucy's attraction for Justin is understandable to most women viewers, the peculiarly understanding nature of her father is less so. He has cosseted his daughter over a number of years, worked and saved to further her career, then comes all the way to L.A. to bring her back home. His then mute acceptance of Lucy casually rejoining a guy she met on the road (as well his vaguely ludicrous expression of enjoyment during her final concert) is far fetched, to say the least. That Aykroyd manages to smooth over a lot of his character's unconvincing behaviour is a tribute more to his acting abilities inducing a suspension of disbelief, than any dramatic truth in the script.
   The other two girls in the plot require little discussion. As the snooty black bitch two-timed by her fiancé, Kit's fall from her high horse is just as predictable as Mimi's pregnancy, once it has served its purpose, is suddenly dispensable. One senses that a better film could have been made had there been a single travelling companion created for Lucy, perhaps just the worldly and 'soiled' Mimi, whose air of gritty determination is perhaps the most convincing item in the film. Her lack of development as a character is regrettable, as she has more to offer Lucy in the way of an education in life than the slightly vacuous Justin.
   At the end of the day, the success of Crossroads depends on how Spears is showcased, rather than the strengths and weaknesses of the supporting cast. Other singers, notably Prince and Madonna, have made much more self-indulgent and less quietly entertaining films than this. Fans of the singer will find Spears' vocalising in pink bra and panties agreeable enough; some will enjoy the slight coming of age plot passes the time; others may want something more substantial for their money.

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