Aurora Borealis

Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., Oct. 6. Rated R. 110 minutes.

Because they apparently couldn't wait until the next Ed Burns movie, first-time feature director James Burke and screenwriter Brent Boyd have conspired to give us their own cinematic paean to the comforts of home and the virtues of hanging out with "the guys" instead of going out into the world and making something of your life. In a nicely measured performance, Dawson's Creek heartthrob Joshua Jackson plays the rudderless Duncan, who works as a handyman in a Minnesota apartment building and falls for the free-spirited nurse (sexy-kooky Juliette Lewis) who tends to his Parkinson's-afflicted grandfather (scenery-inhaling Donald Sutherland). The legacy of a dead father looms large, thickly accented Midwesterners offer pearls of country wisdom that usually begin with "In my day . . . ," and the question of whether Duncan will follow his lady love to the California coast fails to generate edge-of-your-seat suspense. Aurora Borealis—yes, that title eventually comes home to roost—doesn't offend in any way, but it's so self-consciously quaint, so unwaveringly "nice," that you nearly wish it did. SCOTT FOUNDAS

 
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