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Moody ‘November’ ultimately doesn't satisfy

Courtney Cox tries to solve the mystery connected to her boyfriend’s death
/ Source: The Associated Press

From the David Lynch-Lite Department comes “November,” featuring an intriguing performance from Courteney Cox in a moody but ultimately unsatisfying attempt at freak-out psychological fantasy.

Director Greg Harrison’s second feature film, the quiet, somber “November” could scarcely be more different than his debut, the energetic all-night rave flick “Groove.”

“November” runs not much more than an hour, but slow pacing makes it feel longer, never a good sign. Cox’s earnest performance and the neo-noir style created by cinematographer Nancy Schreiber’s dusky camera work carry the film for a while, but the meandering story plays tiresomely loose with perception, finishing with twists that fall well short of revelation.

Cox plays photographer Sophie, who waits in the car one night while boyfriend Hugh (James Le Gros) runs into a convenience store to grab a snack. A robbery there turns violent, and Hugh is shot and killed.

Sophie goes through the usual pangs of grief and loneliness, compounded by guilt over secrets she had withheld from Hugh. She sees a psychiatrist (Nora Dunn), has fitful meals with her mother (Anne Archer), and generally seems to be getting on with her life.

Then, during a slide show at the photography class she teaches, Sophie runs across a mysterious photo of her car parked outside the convenience store on the night of Hugh’s death.

Is a witness trying to send Sophie a message? Could her memory of that night be faulty? Might the photo and the eerie signs and portents that follow be manifestations from beyond? Or is Sophie just nuts?

Harrison and screenwriter Benjamin Brand drop hints, none very titillating, throughout the muddled remainder of “November.” No definite answers are revealed, and the film’s convolutions feel like a cheat as events of the night in question play out again and again with drastically different details and outcomes.

Cox is effective as a woman coming unhinged by her obsession to learn the truth, a role that’s the opposite of her perky chef Monica on “Friends.” The rest of the cast is solid, but their roles lack depth, the characters merely jagged pieces in the puzzle Sophie is trying to assemble.

Unlike the weirdnesses of Lynch films or similar psychological thrillers such as “Jacob’s Ladder” — which have their own internal, albeit perverse, logic — “November” simply wanders about without reason or effect.

The ending is both cryptic and predictable, while the movie’s fragmentary structure cannot quite conceal that the filmmakers are spinning an empty tale. The whole affair feels like a glorified “Twilight Zone” episode, and not a particularly good one at that.