Twister: Not the One About Weather

Twister: Not the One About Weather

There are innumerable instances of directors amassing some insane amount of talent for a project only to have the assembled group of actors work out a pretty mediocre script. In defense of Michael Almereyda and his 1990 film Twister – no it has nothing to do with tornadoes – the concept has some distinct possibilities. It’s just that there isn’t really a plot by the time all of the characters and their various problems are established. So while expansive fields are nice to look at and to set characters against, the film basically reflects the flaccid environment in which it was shot.

Opening with scenes of a half dressed red head recoiling in horror from a looming helicopter overhead has its distinct mystique. It’s just that there really isn’t ever a good explanation as to why Maureen Cleveland is asleep on the lawn in front of her father’s mansion in Kansas.

As the character heads back inside to find her daughter – and partially in order to interact with her sibling Howdy, here played by Crispin Glover – the entirety of the family dynamic is able to be set up relatively quickly and in specific terms. Maureen’s a lackadaisical slacker, Howdy’s a weirdo and their father, Eugene, a soda pop million aire, is beyond the point of attempting to wrangle them any longer. He’s bushed.

Of course, viewers should immediately wonder who the father of Maureen’s daughter – Violet – is. And luckily, Dylan McDermott, here playing Chris, arrives shortly there after to tie up the loose ends. His relationship, though, with Maureen seems to have fallen apart and Chris’ only reason, initially at least, for returning is to rescue his daughter from the bizarre situation in which she’s been living.

And after the animosity of the familial situation is compete – rendered in about forty minutes or so – folks should begin wondering what’s actually going to happen plot wise. There’s brief mention by Maureen and Howdy of hunting down their estranged mother. And when William Burroughs shows up to tell them that she’s moved to Ireland, viewers might expect a trip across the sea. Nope. Eugene summons some story of her death that isn’t ever fully fleshed out – but the movie keeps on moving.

In lieu of that continental trip, the remainder of the film is given over to various situations that serve only to further explicate characters, their motivations for sporadic and erratic behavior.

Certain portions of Twister, though are entertaining – just not consistently. Any time that Crispin Glover’s character Howdy has any dense portion of dialogue, things get pretty intense with his longish Beattle-cut flopping around amidst his diatribes. The guitar playing that Glover gets into as well isn’t to be dismissed as anything less than comic gold. But in those scenes the character still seems to be nothing more than a distraction as opposed to some indispensible part of the (almost non-existent) plot.

Almereyda would go on to have a relatively successful career. Twister and his later, better-received efforts all retain a sort of obtuse pretension. Some come off better than others, but none have the same irreverent tone as what the director worked on his first feature film.