- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The new potboiler “Fascination” can’t wait to make it into Cinemax’s steamy late-night rotation.

Don’t be fooled by the film’s “legitimate” premise: Did a lovely widow murder — or help kill her husband? It’s merely a facade to mask the eroticism that oozes from frame to frame.

Beyond the ardor, director/producer Klaus Menzel can’t maintain the tone from scene to scene, let alone clue in his actors as to gravity of the material. The sole connective tissue is the leaden performance by star Adam Garcia, who looks as though he stepped out of a GQ magazine and ought to hop right back in.

“Fascination” begins with promise, as the widow in question (a stunning Jacqueline Bisset, seemingly untouched by time) mourns her husband’s death by remarrying a few weeks later.


Her son Scott (Mr. Garcia) is aghast at her insensitivity. He worshipped his father — so much so that he overlooks a monstrous act his dad pulled years earlier. Scott despises mom’s new beau, Oliver (Stuart Wilson), for the obvious reasons but feels differently about Oliver’s daughter Kelly (Alice Evans).

The youngsters are step-siblings now, but that doesn’t prevent their ensuing affair. Nor do the growing clues that Scott’s father may have been murdered. Their ardor is sparked by any number of catalysts — from the film’s heavy panting ballads to one of Kelly’s many confessions.

This girl’s got a graveyard in her closet.

Later, Mr. Menzel offers up lovemaking sequences between the two — which serve little purpose other than to showcase a spectacular view of the stars’ bodies in gauzy lighting. If only we could see the rest of the film through such a flattering filter.

Some of “Fascination’s” fractured plotting deserves forgiveness. Prime time soaps rely on grand leaps of faith when it comes to digesting their story lines, and audiences rarely seem to mind. Cheese can stick to the ribs if spread just right.

“Fascination” briefly hooks us by trotting out characters unencumbered by morality. We’re left to wonder just how far each will stoop — or what measures they might take — to set their ever-tilting world on the straight and narrow.

By the final reel, the screenwriters engorge themselves on plot twists to near riotous effect. Talking in theaters shouldn’t be encouraged. Here, though, hooting at such hooey can’t be helped.

By the time a police interrogator enters the frame sporting what appears to be a massive goiter, the comedy dam all but breaks loose.

Miss Bisset’s Maureen remains a cipher throughout — and worse, one who takes to widowhood like an alcoholic to an open bar. Miss Evans, on the other hand, resonates as a fleshy beauty able to rise above the chameleon role she’s forced to play.

“Fascination” is set in sunny Florida but occasionally has a European flair. Maybe it’s all the accents floating across the screen, or perhaps it’s just another way to appear extra exotic to the teens who’ll soon scope it out on late-night cable.

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