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Looking Back: Feeling Minnesota (1996)

I didn’t expect to get nostalgic re-visiting the Gen-X Keanu Reeves/Cameron Diaz love story, “Feeling Minnesota,” but I forgot how much this movie was present in my college years. I saw the film with my friend Sarah at the (no longer existing) Green Mountain Theater in Lakewood CO. I bought the film’s poster from Suncoast Video and had it hung in my college dorm for most of my undergraduate years. I still have the film’s enjoyable soundtrack on tape cassette. Twenty years ago, I remember kind of liking the movie, which isn’t the case two decades later.

Here’s a self consciously “edgy,” weak post-Tarantino attempt at a hip, violent romance. How much did this try to the be the next “Pulp Fiction”? The trailer voice over loudly declared it was “from Jersey Films,” as though producer Danny De Vito’s involvement meant it was QT caliber. The same tactic would be utilized decades later with the whole “from the studio that brought you (name company here),” but I digress.

feeling poster

This is the movie where Keanu Reeves plays a man who, due to a mistake on his birth certificate, is named “jjaks.” By that same pseudo-hip measure, the movie ssuks.

Vincent D’Onofrio stars as Sam, a loser criminal whose marriage to Freddie (Diaz) is arranged by a gun toting villain named Red (Delroy Lindo). At Sam and Freddie’s literal shotgun wedding, Freddie is discovered and rescued by jjaks, Sam’s brother, played by Reeves.

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Instead of a chase movie or on-the-lam romance, we get lots of scenes of actors driving to one location and yelling at each other. In every scene, someone is either getting punched in the face, smacked, thrown to the ground or shot.

It’s a visually ugly movie, though I suppose that must have seemed appropriately “indie” at one point. Like “Love and a .45,” “Truth or Consequences NM,” or “Suicide Kings,” this just one of the many post-QT movies that proved “Pulp Fiction” was not a fluke and could not be easily duplicated.

Diaz is exceptional here- she makes you believe the fire within Freddie. The character suffers through a great deal (there are moments that suggest she’s raped) and that she’s become a slave to the men in her life. The role is degrading but Diaz gives her an inner life.

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Reeves doesn’t seem to be pushing hard enough, neither with the humor nor his character in general. Other than a scene where he fools a cop into thinking a corpse is sleeping, he’s too dialed down. You believe in the romance because Diaz is so enchanting, not because they have the strongest chemistry.

Dan Aykroyd is very good in a character turn as a nasty, corrupt cop. Sadly, this didn’t lead to grittier roles or give him the about-face career turn that “Pulp Fiction” did for its stars. Courtney Love has a couple of pointless scenes as a kind waitress who puts up with D’Onofrio. We wonder what the heck she’s doing in this movie and, funny thing, she looks as though she’s asking the same question. This was the same year she was astonishing in “The People Vs. Larry Flynt.” If Love ever acts again (and I hope she does), it likely won’t be due to nostalgia for the time she played “Rhoda the Waitress” (her actual character name in the end credits).

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The final stretch was obviously re-shot: Reeves shows up in Las Vegas, accompanied by the cute dog that vanished in the second act and does that cool thing again where he throws a cigarette in the air and catches it in his mouth. What follows is, likewise, an example of what happens when a happy ending is forced onto a movie. A few years later, Reeves gave an interview in Premiere Magazine where he revealed how he did the re-shot ending “kicking and screaming.” That is the correct approach to filming concluding scenes this dumb. I don’t know what the original ending of “Feeling Minnesota” was but it must have had more bite than this.

“Feeling Minnesota” isn’t just disposable, it’s really mean. The final scene is out of place because, unlike the rest of the movie, no one is slapped, shot, thrown to the ground, yelled at or gut punched.



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