Missing

Another journalist disappears, circa 1991.

HARRISON'S FLOWERS

directed by Elie Chouraqui with Andie MacDowell, David Strathairn, and Adrien Brody opens March 15 at Pacific Place and others

BEAUTIFUL ANDIE MacDowell discovers war is ugly. Yet even as she crawls behind snipers, dodges rape, and witnesses slaughter in the former Yugoslavia, despite the noble intentions of French writer-director Elie Chouraqui, the take-away message of his violent anti-war drama is "Andie sure looks goooood."

MacDowell plays Sarah, the wife of hotshot photojournalist Harrison (Limbo's David Strathairn), who's finally ready to retire to tend his family and beloved flower collection. No such luck. He's dispatched to the Balkans and promptly dies in a cross fire. Or does he?

Citing rather thin evidence, Sarah refuses to believe her husband is dead. So she flies to Austria and drives across the border into the war zone, where a roving pack of photographers escorts her to Vukovar, where Harrison disappeared.

Flowers unfolds at a breezy pace that contrasts with the gravity of the Serbian-Croatian strife. Despite scenes of ethnic cleansing, Chouraqui undermines his film's potential impact with a simplistic script and cardboard characters.

As a result, this misunderstood conflict in a far-off land is reduced to a series of explosions that numb rather than disturb. Though it is disturbing that Sarah sees dozens of Croatian civilians slaughtered and offers no help because she and her cronies are so intent on rescuing a single American who's probably already dead.

MacDowell gives a mediocre performance, but, pardon the looksism, her fine-boned beauty works against her. With minimal dialogue, her main job is to react to chaos and follow orders from a cocky photojournalist (Summer of Sam's Adrien Brody). When the two don camouflage face paint, it looks like she's at a spa.

What's missing is any sense of danger. MacDowell blithely strolls through hell and, like Mr. Magoo, escapes major injury. The overall effect is more supermodel than Silkwood.

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