The Mosquito Coast | Chicago Reader

The Mosquito Coast

Peter Weir's 1986 adaptation of Paul Theroux's best-selling novel is literally that—an adaptation without much character of its own. Harrison Ford plays an American inventor who's had it with his country's cultural dereliction (odd, since he's an American autarkist when it comes to the economy) and decides to move with wife and kids to Central America to begin a purified, self-sufficient life. Weir's no stranger to tropical disintegration—his Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Year of Living Dangerously were stuffed with it—but he doesn't do much with it here. The close-up styling he adopts drains away every trace of personality and color, and he uses it indiscriminately, irrespective of visual and dramatic need. As the ideological refugee from human interconnection, Ford's inventor occasionally suggests the obsessional dilemmas of Reagan-era autonomy, but too often the character veers toward psychological cartoon, a cross between rasping Eastwood renegade and half-deranged Mr. Wizard. Weir's direction sustains some modest tension—the visual barrenness reflects the family's straitened situation almost by default—but it's obvious that personal inspiration is in critically short supply. With Helen Mirren, River Phoenix, Conrad Roberts, and Andre Gregory; Paul Schrader contributed the tight screenplay.

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