The Unbelievable Truth

Released:  1990

Cast:  Adrienne Shelly, Robert Burke, Christopher Cooke, Julia McNeal, Katherine Mayfield, Gary Sauer

SUMMARY:  Audry Hugo (Adrienne Shelly) is a teenager living on Long Island with her parents, Vic (Robert Burke) and Liz (Katherine Mayfield).  Her father owns a garage, where he works on cars with hapless assistant Mike.  Audry is disillusioned with life, believing that it will probably end soon due to nuclear war.  She breaks up with her wannabe-yuppie boyfriend Emmet (Gary Sauer), who doesn’t understand this fatalistic mindset.  Her father doesn’t understand her, either, but he often contradicts himself.  He is determined that Audry go to college, and is furious when she announces that she isn’t going.  However, when she announces that she was accepted into Harvard, he states that it is too expensive, and he won’t pay for it.  Eventually, he and Audry reach a deal, involving a charity donation from him and a commitment to community college from her.  This (somewhat) peaceful existence is interrupted by the return of Josh Hutton (Robert Burke), who has just been released from prison.  Josh is something of a myth in town, having reportedly killed both the sister and father of Audry’s friend Pearl (Julia McNeal).  Josh meets Audry soon after returning to town, and she encourages her father to give him a job in the garage.

Eventually an attraction develops between the two, but Josh is uncomfortable acting on his feelings.  Audry begins to get modeling jobs, and when she realizes that things with Josh aren’t working out, she decides to move into New York City.  She continues to have success, but when she does a nearly-nude shot that appears in a major paper, he is furious.  He gives Josh $500 and demands that his daughter be brought home.  Josh does go to Audry’s apartment in the city, but mistakenly believes that she is in a relationship with her manager.  After throwing a book through the window, he returns home; Audry figures out what has happened and follows him.  Back home, Josh is confronted by Pearl, who reveals a major secret.  Josh had dated Pearl’s sister, and while driving drunk one night, got into an accident that resulted in her death.  Sometime later, Josh visited Pearl’s father to apologize, but the two men got into a fight:  Josh pushed the older man down the stairs, causing his death (this is what he went to prison for).  However, Pearl reveals that Josh had actually passed out during the fight, and she accidentally startled her father, causing the fatal fall.  Josh seems to take this in stride, and Pearl falls asleep in a room of his house.  This causes major confusion when several people, including Vic and Audry, arrive.  Vic wants to know where Audry and his money are, and Audry is looking for Josh.  However, Josh and Audry do manage to sort things out, and the film ends happily.

MY TAKE:  I knew I knew the name Adrienne Shelly from somewhere.  It took me a while, but I did figure it out:  she died under rather mysterious circumstances in 2006.  It looked like she had committed suicide, but her husband insisted that this would never happen:  an investigation later revealed that a construction worker had killed her and staged it to look like suicide.  This rather gruesome fact puts a bit of a damper on the film, which was better than I expected.  There was actually a storyline (yay!), and while there’s satirical undertones, the surface action kept me interested.  I got a particular kick out of Vic, who reminded me somewhat of the Mayor in The Music Man.  One minute he’s vehemently defending one position, and the next he’s just as vehemently arguing the other side — sort of like how he insists that Audry go to college, until she starts making good money modeling, when he insists that she postpone college.  It would make me nutty to have to deal with him, but Audry is an absolute pro at it:  she often negotiates “deals” with him that end with her getting exactly what she wanted and him scratching his head.  I liked the added mystery of Josh’s past, but I have a hard time believing that in a town that small, nobody really knows what happened.  They’re all on the right track, but being from a small town, I would think that everybody would know even the most minute details.

RATING:  Better than expected.


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