It's Deja Vu All Over Again with Slight, Familiar For the Moment

By Michael Wilmington

Chicago Tribune Movie Critic

For the Moment is an odd little 1994 Canadian independent film that's arriving here, courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, about three years late.

Three years? Some would say three decades late. This is a picture that tries so determinedly to be an old-fashioned movie heartbreaker it becomes almose endearing.

For the Moment is a love story, laid under vast skies against wind-swept prairies, about World War II pilot trainees in Canada and the Manitoba women who love them under the clouds of war and the shadows of death. And, even though the end-title credits tell us this film is dedicated to the 250,000 participants in Canada's World War II flight training program, Moment might just as well have been dedicated to the 250 or so movies about daredevil young pilots who go after the wrong girl, fly too hard and high, lean teamwork or get their comeuppance.

Australia's Russell Crowe (the star of Romper Stomper) plays that old Jimmy Cagney-Errol Flynn role here, and he's not bad. Neither is the woman he woos, Canadian actress Christianne Hirt, who matches Crowe twinkle for twinkle.

Crowe plays Lachlan, a cocky Aussie flier who is introduced to Lill (Hirt), his buddy's married sister-in-law -- and, as it soon turns out, his soulmate. We can tell Lachlan and Lill are made for each other. They're the best smilers in a movie where everyone smiles incessantly. Crowe has bedroom eyes that suggest Robert Redford, and Hirt's saucy grin almost reminds you of the young Sally Field.

With vast hunks of prairie scenery backing them up, and Pachelbel's Canon oozing Baroque sentiment, these star-crossed lovers stare yearningly at each other. They flirt knowingly, gambol joyously on the beach and, dizzy with barely repressed desire, lock eyes against the horizon. 'I feel as if all this has happened before,' Lachlan muses.

It sure has. So has the movie's other romance, between the local bootlegger-hooker Betsy (Wanda Cannon), a lady with a past--and a present -- and Zeek(Scott Kraft), the straight-arrow American pilot teacher who doesn't care what she's done. We've also seen the bigot bully-boy and his rowdy troublemaker cohorts, the gay Brit flyers, Lil's troubled family and Betsy's squabbling kids. And we've gone through the farewell death scene and even the hushed moment when a soldier arrives with a telegram in a windswept field.

As a matter of fact, when Lill explains to Lachlan that he's experiencing deja vu, she's describing the entire movie. For the Moment is slight and familiar. But there are some likable things about it--notably writer-director Aaron Kim Johnston's unhurried delight in the landscapes and people. Johnston isn't original, but his movie has that definite plus: The stock characters are played with affection and sympathy. And since Crowe and Hirt are magnetic actors, their scenes are sometimes affecting. But only for the moment.