For the Moment

A Film Review by James Berardinelli

[RATING (0 to 10): 7.0]

Canada, 1994
U.S. Release Date: beginning 4/96 (limited)
Running Length: 2:00
MPAA Classification: PG-13 (Violence, profanity, sex, brief nudity)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Cast: Russell Crowe, Christianne Hirt, Wanda Cannon, Scott Kraft, Peter Outerbridge, Sara McMillan
Director: Aaron Kim Johnston
Producers: Jack Clements and Aaron Kim Johnston
Screenplay: Aaron Kim Johnston
Cinematography: Ian Elkin
Music: Victor Davies

Nicely photographed and appealingly acted, For the Moment is a period piece melodrama that transpires during the summer of 1942. Set (and filmed) in Manitoba, Canada, where Allied bomber pilots came for instruction, the film chronicles the lives and loves of three airmen: Lachlan (Russell Crowe) and Johnny (Peter Outerbridge), a pair of young daredevils out to earn their wings, and Zeek (Scott Kraft), a grizzled veteran of two European tours of duty, who is their teacher. For the Moment is pure, tear-jerking formula, but, because writer/director/producer Aaron Kim Johnston conveys such affection for his characters, the final product is surprisingly effective.

Johnny's fiancee is Kate (Sara McMillan), a local girl. Kate's older sister, Lill (Christianne Hirt), is married to Frank -- by all accounts the perfect husband, except that he has been off to war for more than a year. Lill is lonely and vulnerable -- easy prey to Lachlan's infectious Aussie charm, even as he is smitten by her. Meanwhile, the dashing Zeek (Scott Kraft, who bears a passing resemblance to Gone with the Wind's Rhett) allows himself to become romantically entangled with the region's good-natured whore/bootlegger, Betsy (Wanda Cannon).

For much of the first half, For the Moment rigorously uses romantic cliches. The film is obvious, and occasionally clumsy, fleshing out characters and their relationships. There's never any doubt who's going to become involved with whom -- just how long its going to take the various parties to get together. It's only the effective chemistry between the various lovers that keeps us interested through the less-inspired moments. During the second half, however, the movie mixes in sentimentality and darker psychological overtones to attain a satisfying, if bittersweet, conclusion.

Russell Crowe (Proof, The Sum of Us) makes a wonderful romantic lead, blending charm, enthusiasm, good looks, and acting ability into his portrayal of Lachlan, who we're supposed to like, and do. In terms of talent, Crowe is far superior to anyone else in the cast, although most of his co-stars, including Christianne Hirt, make up for the deficiency with general likeability and appeal. And no one among the major players turns in a bad performance.

For the Moment says something about the ephemeral nature of human existence, the uncertainty of everyone's future, and the longing we often experience for the "road not traveled." The film takes a little too long to tell the story, and there are several superfluous, one-dimensional villains. Overall, however, For the Moment succeeds at what it wants to be: a weepy love story. It's not an epic by any means, but it is pleasant, which isn't such a bad thing.

1996 James Berardinelli