A disconcerting (if occasionally intriguing) mixed bag, this Americanized adaptation of Mario Vargas Llosa's Peruvian novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter has been transplanted to 1951 New Orleans by scenarist William Boyd. Directed by Jon Amiel (The Singing Detective, Queen of Hearts), the film suffers from a truly awful performance by Keanu Reeves as a reporter and aspiring literary writer who becomes involved with his worldly aunt (Barbara Hershey) and falls under the spell of an eccentric radio soap-opera writer (Peter Falk) who likes to manipulate reality in order to feed his own fiction. Falk has been encouraged to ham it up so shamelessly that even fans like myself are put to the test; the period flavor is uncertain, Wynton Marsalis's score is disappointingly mediocre, and the film's eagerness to milk laughs from the scriptwriter's loathing of Albanians seems tacky and facile. What the movie has going for it are the freewheeling crossovers between fiction and reality that also sparked The Singing Detective and which the film generally handles with wit and imagination, as well as Hershey's touching efforts—virtually at odds with those of the rest of the cast—to play a believable character. Otherwise, this movie tends to assault you like a hysterically affectionate Chihuahua, daring you to either recoil or capitulate (1990).