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  • No Looking Back (1998)

    A grossly underrated film--but also not an "enjoyable" movie in the normal sense. It is such a realistic slice of life about a group of lower-middle class Long Island shore town dwellers, it sometimes fails to rise above its own material into a meaningful narrative. And that is what most movies find a way to do.

    But you might reassess that intention and bask in a situation so simply wrought--the houses, the beach, the old cars, and most of all the array of people who fix cars and wait tables and hang out in ordinary working class bars. It all feels good even though it's not, overall, a feel-good movie. And the acting is generally spot on, even the doubtful inclusion of Jon Bon Jovi as one of the two main guys.

    At the center of it all is the young woman, Claudia, played by Lauren Holly, who is trying to find a way to "not look back" and yet finds herself trapped by the town and her devotion to her friends there. (This is a slight flaw all along--this seemingly bright and striving young woman is still working at a diner when she could easily move on, or go to college, or get another kind of job.) But still, Claudia is nearly engaged to the nice guy Michael (Bon Jovi) when her ex-boyfriend Charlie from three years earlier returns to town. Charlie is played by writer/director Edward Burns and he might not be everyone's taste as a leading type, but he works in this role for me. He's charming and unreliable even in his actions, which are too coy and sweet and lovable for his sudden appearance in town.

    So the conflict is there, and maybe it's not enough for a feature film. What fills in the gaps are small things, like a past abortion and its consequences, or a mother (played with utter brilliance by Blythe Danner) struggling with her own man issues. There are bar friends and a sister and a mechanic or two on the side, and it mixes and matches and floats and often avoids high drama or deeper plot development. Even the characters are left someone simple, partly because there are so many of them, but they become increasingly convincing.

    What then makes the movie work? All of this, as it is, including its restraint and lack of the sensational. And most of all it's Holly's performance that builds and holds together through it all. I was surprised by the depth of what she pulled off and yet I'd never heard of her. It turns out she's been very active but in mostly smaller roles, both in movies and television. This is one movie never mentioned in highlights of her career, and I think it's a shame. Burns clearly pulled together people of talent for this small, focused movie, and as an independent movie with an independent feel it rises above its smallness. I have a feeling it will survive over the years and continue to be interesting for its honesty.
  • (I must first preface this review by admitting that I am from a northeastern town similar).

    After reading some of the reviews here and seeing the movie recently on IFC, I feel that this movie is a little misunderstood.

    First of all, this movie was not made for everyone. By that I mean that Edward Burns is speaking to a specific segment here. This is a story of everyday life in a working class small Northeastern town. He recreates the ENTIRE environment: groups of people that graduated highschool together and never left, the gossip, the one and only social hangout, all the intrigue and interconnected people, the way they talk and interact with each other, and even the music they like to listen to (there are a couple Bruce Springsteen songs mixed into the soundtrack).

    After creating this dead on environment, he tells the story. This is where a lot of people here have had problems. Burns shows the monotony of everyday life in this town. I mean, he ACTUALLY shows it on camera: people going to their jobs, talking about mundane stuff, etc. Things that other directors would have merely mentioned through dialogue or other means.

    This is done for a reason: Burns is trying to put you in this town. As if you are one of those who has been trapped here. He makes an attempt to show you these things so that you'll understand the character's desires to leave.

    And if you've spent any time in one of these towns, you will understand EXACTLY what he is trying to say. Sorry to say, it's a sort realistic movie. The characters are imperfect, they do dumb things. The awkwardly and badly tell lies to each other. They like normal people.

    Other than that, I could have done without Bon Jovi. He showed no range of emotions (if my girlfriend stayed out with another guy until 5 a.m., I would think my voice would show a little more inflection at least).

    Anyway, if you are from this area and want to "go home again", rent this movie. If you aren't and want to see what it's like, see this movie.

    If you liked any major blockbuster this year, pass.
  • It's always refreshing to see movies that deal with ordinary people and their lives. Burns has made it his "thing" to create normal, fragile characters who live very ordinary lives and, in this film at least, are sad and disappointed over how mundane and uneventful their existence is. Burns taps into this genre quite well but here, unlike his excellent debut The Brothers McMullen, his characters aren't as interesting or well defined.

    Lauren Holly plays a waitress who seems to be bored out of her mind, living with blue collar mechanic Bon Jovi. Her old sweetheart (who completely broke her heart) Burns returns and promises her a better life if she will pack up and go with him.

    Holly gives an excellent performance in the lead role. She's the best written character as well, and you feel for her and root for her. Other characters aren't as well defined and are fairly one-dimensional and uninteresting, especially Burn's character. The film moves along very slowly and, aside from one scene involving Bon Jovi, avoids any real emotional outbursts. It's very subdued and could have used some form of life injected to it.

    Cast is mostly excellent. Holly is terrific, Burns good as usual but most unexpected; Bon Jovi is actually quite effective as Holly's unfortunate boyfriend.

    Praise goes also to the excellent music score. There's not one but three Springsteen songs and in my books that indicates some good musical taste.
  • which means to me that it was a well thought out realistically acted damn good story and well worth watching.

    You've read the plot outline so I won't rehash that. Burns is quite good as always and the rest of the cast is too. Just a good story about a young woman with dreams she never tried to realize coming to a point in her life when she has to decide whether to try to follow those dreams or just go on with her comfortable life in the small town of her birth. Burns arrives as her former boyfriend, a dreamer who did leave to chase his dreams and found he couldn't catch them. Our heroine sees what could have been, what would be and chooses what could be. Nice ending.
  • Ive seen quite a few Jon Bon Jovi films (except for ROW YOUR BOAT!!) and this one rocks them all!! Hes so believable and the last scene between him and Robin, he was so believable, I just wanted to hold him.

    Great stor line. I guess we all go through an identity crisis of what we really want and this film is a pure example that we all have right to dreams (although I dont think we should betray our loved ones like Robin did!!)

    Definetly worth a watch!!

  • This is the second movie I saw, written and directed by Edward Burns. The first I saw was "Sidewalks of New York" and I really enjoyed watching that movie. "No Looking Back" was unfortunately not as good as "Sidewalks of New York", but I still enjoyed watching the movie. The acting was good and I specially enjoyed Jon Bon Jovi, he was great. But I have one little remark: maybe Ed and Jon should have switched parts because Jon has more the look to play the rebel instead of Ed. But that's just a little remark.

    I highly enjoy Ed Burns' movies. He is capable of making the perfect indies and I think he definitely have to continue making these kind of movies. His style is perfect and the way he tries to tell these stories is perfect as well! Keep up the good work, Ed! I'm really looking forward to see some of your other work!

  • I cannot begin to explain just how REAL this film feels when you watch it. The characters seem to resemble people that all of us, at some stage or another, has met in our lives. How many people out there can say that they have never met a guy like Charlie or a big hearted guy like Mikey? Burns is proving himself as a writer and director, I hope he was proud of this piece. The script is believable and the scenery is exactly what most of us step out from our homes into! There is some great acting from Jon Bon Jovi, nice to see he's proving his critics wrong! This is a very moving and unforgettable movie, proving to me that mistakes make a man what he is.
  • jotix10013 February 2006
    This predictable film will not add anything to Edward Burns' resume. In fact, "No Looking Back", his third directorial effort, has a flat feeling to it, in spite of the people involved with the project. No one decides to go into a losing project, but it appears Mr. Burns was not sufficiently inspired with this tale of a working class situation.

    From the beginning, with the arrival of Charlie back home to the small town by the sea, and his encounter with Claudia, the young woman who had stayed behind, we realize where this tale is going. Claudia, who is now involved with Michael, still hasn't been able to forget the man who must have been the love of her life.

    The surprise in the film is Jon Bon Jovi in a dramatic role. He plays the kind Michael, who as much as he tries, can't compete against Charlie for the love of Claudia. Mr. Burns, directing himself, should have given the job to another actor because he doesn't appear to be objective in how to play his character. Lauren Holly tries, but her Claudia is, at times, irritating. Blythe Danner also appears as Claudia's mother.

    The best thing going for "No Looking Back" is the great soundtrack heard throughout the movie.
  • I watched this movie just recently (had video-recorded it from the TV). Very solid performances of all the actors and I was pleasantly surprised by Jon Bon Jovi. In my view, Edward Burns has given us better performances than this one, although no complaints. Blythe Danner, even though her role is short, is intense and completely into it as always. The setting, a small coastal town, was great and perfectly reflected the mood of the entire movie. As to the soundtrack: superb! But where can I get a hold of it?! The recording I have did not show the credits all the way to the end and I would especially like to know which female singer performs at least two of the songs. Springsteen is, of course, recognizable.
  • Reek-224 January 1999
    I am intrigued by the mixed emotions this movie brings. I think it was as close to perfect as a film can get. Burns cut his teeth with two excellent movies, but this movie is almost too good, too soon. The acting, writing, scenery, emotions, and pace were synergistic.

    Lauren Holly should be so proud of her performance. To me it was the best performance I have seen by any actor - male or female - in a long time. Watch her eyes and her body language.

    If you're looking to be entertained this may not be for you. If you love the art of real characters and real dialogue, you should like this film. I was blown away.

    Great job Ed!!! It's hard to do it better than this one.
  • As a movie enthusiast for several decades, I've seen thousands of movies. I thought this was one of the very, very best. It's the first time I've given an IMDb rating of 10. The writing was great and the 3 principals gave very strong performances. In fact, I started to search to see if Lauren Holly was at least given a 1998 Best Actress nomination. However, I stumbled across the movie's having been pulled from distribution before 250,000 had seen it. So the selection committee would have never have even considered it. What a shame – I was stunned! I went here to IMDb to see what was the disconnect between my experience and most everyone else's. I saw that 1,378 reviewers gave an average 5.7 (out of 10) rating. The last time I really liked a movie the average was 8.5. I looked at the written reviews and saw a lot of people who really liked it. One suggested that if one was looking for a blockbuster or escapist fare one wouldn't like it. Maybe the writing was too good, too true to life? However, several Burns' slice of life films had been blockbuster hits so that couldn't be the whole story. Maybe, people got so into the film that out of the 3 plausible endings 2 out of 3 were deeply disappointed by the 1 selected. However, I contend, the 95% of the movie that went before the ending had the value of showing people struggling with difficult emotional decisions that were somewhat beyond their control as they were intertwined with other humans struggling with their own difficult emotional decisions – so the audience could just select whatever virtual ending one wanted and be moved by the heart of the movie. There's no objective right choice, just choose what's right for you and realize there's no guarantees in life. So my first few sentences notwithstanding, don't go in with high expectations – the statistics seem to be against it. If you only see a few films, then go with the super popular films. However, if you've "seen them all" and are casting about for something above mediocrity and you like slice of life, it's worth the gamble. I read the negatives and disagreed and they gave no insight into objective flaws – they just describe why they personally didn't like seeing that particular slice of life, etc. It's a GREAT film, but you might just not like it.
  • I think it is such a nice movie, this girl is so confused. I definitely agree, Bon Jovi is so great in this movie, I know sometimes everybody feels like not knowing what to do exactly, I like th scene when she is so excited because she is going out with Charlie, how excited and happy is in the restaurant and the difference in her attitude, the way she put the perfume on, thinking that her situation will improve and will fin the stability she needs. Then feeling so empty once she is with Charly and realizes that the past is death, that relationship did not work out and will never work out, and she has to go on. I think Michael's decision was kind of hard but it was the healthiest decision he could take, he knew he had done everything he could to keep the relationship up, but he understood finally that what she felt for him was not true love.
  • abooboo-229 December 2003
    A mood and a soundtrack in search of a story. A dull, flat, lifeless exercise so bad that it scares you away from ever seeing anything by Ed Burns again. Gives the words "independent film" a bad name. How did this ever get made? Say what you will about Hollywood's anti-art bottom line mentality but give them credit: they would NEVER ever in a million years greenlight something this slight and inconsequential and God bless them. There's no there there!

    A drifter, smugly and unappealingly played by Ed Burns himself, returns to his blue collar coastal town to win back his girlfriend from a working class Average Joe played decently by Jon Bon Jovi. That's it. No insights, no spark, no wit, no originality, no surprises. Burns may think he's somehow honoring the so-called working class by depicting their mundane world and petty concerns with such honesty, but the irony is those very same people wouldn't be caught dead going to see a movie like this in a million years. (And God bless them too)

    There's some pretty shots of ocean waves washing against the shore, cloudy skies and one scene with a swirling camera revolving around Lauren Holly and Bon Jovi, but everything in between is just listless actors reciting unimaginably stale dialogue. It's as if Burns were determined to drain what little potential drama the story had (you crave a scene where Bon Jovi loses his cool and decks Burns for going after his girl but in vain) and replace it with stony silence. But silence has to have meaning, here it has none.

    Dismal. It IS as bad as everyone says. It sucks the life right out of you.
  • G-Man-2510 July 1999
    A slight disappointment from Edward Burns after the fine comedies "The Brothers McMullen" and "She's The One."

    There's no faulting the performances, most of which are decent...but the story goes nowhere and neither do the characters here. The movie feels aimless and lacks energy. Burns himself plays a ne'er-do-well and manages to make him almost likable in a scruffy sort of way and Jon BonJovi isn't half bad as a regular Joe. It's just a shame that none of the characters exhibit any real growth or transformation during the picture.

    Burns' comedies were somewhat aimless too, but they felt more alive that his stab at drama here. Maybe he should stick to the funny stuff he does best.
  • "No Looking Back" spends almost all of it's 1.5 hour run time with a guy (Burns) trying to reclaim his girlfriend (Holly) after years away from the small town where they grew up together. Typical of Burns flicks this film is all conversation amongst working class people. The problem with the story is there is never any mention of a reason why she should want to go anywhere with him. No plan to ensure their mutual success and happiness save a brief mention of Texas. He has no goals. She has no goals. Her roomie/boyfriend (Bon Jovi) has no plans save the status quo. Apparently none of them care about goals and live as slaves of kismet or karma or something. There's no talk of anything such as..."Hey, what're you gonna do for a living?". Bottom line is this "dog" is shallow, simple minded drivel with some good actors caught up in a story/script which goes no where and has the ending to prove it.
  • The Soundtrack To "No Looking Back" 1.Home-By:Sheryl Crow 2.What's Your Name-By:Lynyrd Skynyrd 3.Gentle On My Mind-By:Glen Campbell 4.One Step Up-By:Bruce Springsteen 5.Romeo-By:Patti Scialfa 6.I'm On Fire-By:Bruce Springsteen 7.Valentine's Day-By:Bruce Springsteen 8.Long Time Nothing New-By:Pete Yorn 9.Lost Souls-By:Pete Yorn 10.Whipping Post-By: The Allman Brothers Band 11.Rumble Doll-By:Patti Scialfa 12.Bound For The Floor-By:Local H 13.Plowed-By:Sponge 14.Melissa-By:The Allman Brothers Band 15.Beautiful Venice-By:Georges Gasguy and Saveur Mallia 16.Sweet Baby-By:Macy Gray 17.I Am A Big Girl Now-By:Patti Scialfa This Movie is really good with a great soundtrack and Jon Bon Jovi is Awesome
  • dennisq272 April 2006
    i wish their were more ed burns out their. its ashame u have to be a big shot to get a good story to the public, because i know their are tons of people who can write but are not Hollywood big shots so people will never enjoy it. No Looking back is an actual story that I and so many others can relate to. I know movies are meant to entertain and this movie does that while also relating to many viewers lives. I do not know if this was a great movie or just so much a step up from all the junk being made today. bottom line, burns tells a great story and does a great job acting as well. burns plays a regular joe and gets away with it perfectly, which is rare for your basic overly good looking Hollywood actor. The song choice and cinematography was great and all the actors seemed realistic in their roles. BonJovi looked like he could use an acting class or 2 but if hes gona act that's the kinda role he should play. i hope ed burns and anyone else continue to make these movies where no one is blowing up buildings or killing aliens. Movies today are a joke, it is all rich people getting stupid people to come see their movies to make box office $. keep it up ed burns.
  • moviemaker-4986610 August 2019
    I love this movie, and it's really too bad that hardly anyone's ever seen it because it's absolutely fantastic. The dreary setting is perfect for the depressing subject matter. It's a pretty heart-wrenching, realistic movie, just too indie for most moviegoers to appreciate.Other than 'She's the One,' this is easily Ed Burns' best movie.
  • The film feels like a Springsteen song on the big screen. it really nails the small town New Jersey / New York shore off-season feel. Lauren Holly and John Bon Jovi both put in honest solid performances.
  • The main feeling I had towards the girl's central problem here was... one of total indifference. You see, she has to pick between between two specimens of manhood: The 'Mr Reliable But Boring' who she's been shacked up with for a few years... or her ex, 'The Rebel' who let her down badly once, but has just come roaring back into town. All of these thinly-written protagonists failed to hold my attention for very long, and by the time the oh-so-clichéd ending arrived, I was already preparing supper.

    Lauren Holly, last seen by me showing off her butt in Dumb & Dumber is a babe... but an utterly bland lead who's choices were as inconsistent as she is dull. As for her potential love interests, one is a rock star in real life (I wouldn't be too pleased as a fan to find out Bon Jovi's latest album was delayed because of THIS) and the other is Edward Burns... the director/writer of this feature. He perfectly masters the art of mediocrity is all his various assignments. Well done, that man.

    I literally have nothing else to say. Bye for now. 5/10
  • Suggests that Burns' initial promise has almost completely dissipated - this movie has barely a single line that rings true, and no wit whatsoever; the characters emote in dreadful cliches. Burns hasn't progressed at all as a writer or director: the movie is awful at generating a sense of place - the town remains an enigma despite his supposed roots there (take the bar scene one crowded night as the camera moves over various people gossiping and bitching - it has no pizzazz; it's flat and feels studio-bound and sterile). Beautiful Girls comes to mind as a more authentic evocation of this kind of blue-collar environment. Thematically too the film has no worthwhile ideas, and numerous plot lines remain unresolved - presumably because the movie was never really interested in all the little things it threw in to generate a sense of buzz and emotional breadth (like the friend who makes a pass at Jovi during the night he's out searching for Holly). The finale makes a mountain out of a decision that barely amounts to a molehill.
  • I haven't seen the other two more well-known films that writer-director Edward Burns has done but this one is excellent. It has a real feel for the ordinary lives of lower middle-class people, the kind for whom losing a $20 bet in a poker game at the wrong time of the week is a disaster, and it tells an interesting story. Burns plays a ne'er-do-well type who blows back into his old hometown looking for the girl he left behind three years before. Only he finds that she (Lauren Holly) is now engaged to another old friend, played by Jon Bon Jovi. At first Lauren is ready to tell this bum to hit the road, but he eventually begins to win her back, not simply because of his rascally charm, but because he forces her to think about her limited future here in town if she does marry her boyfriend.

    Lauren Holly is so good here and such a joy to watch. All of her inner emotions and the turmoil she feels is there in her eyes for everyone to see each time the camera looks her way. Burns is also good in his role. He character in this film reminds me of someone Mickey Roarke would play, and I think he resembles that actor a bit, too. Bon Jovi was a real surprise to me, and the rest of the main supporting cast do fine jobs as well. If you like real-life or slice-of-life dramas or whatever you want to call them, 'No Looking Back' may suit you just fine.
  • dansview17 March 2007
    Overall, a very worthwhile film. Exciting,,no. It was a dialogue-based character study or writer-driven movie with a good deal of realism.

    If you like to watch real people live their lives with a relevant soundtrack in the background and a problem, conflict, and resolution all wrapped up within a couple of hours, then you will enjoy this film.

    Ed Burns, a small town drifter returns to his hometown, consequently jars the lives of the people he left behind and his own, conflicts and reflection ensue, catharsis sets in, and resolution concludes.

    Lauren Holly gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this small film. From the beginning and throughout, we feel her angst, her joys, her fears as if they were our own. No small feat for any actor.

    It could have been much more effective however if burns had written in some scenes where characters would give some meaty speeches about the morality of their decisions and lifestyles. Clearly the Burns character was bordering on amoral, so other characters should have schooled him with some passionate sense of justice. This was implied several times, but never really made an impact.

    Of course the types of people who live in sleepy blue collar towns don't necessarily make a practice of giving impassioned morality speeches, but presumably someone in town was a churchgoer.
  • jlbrpt28 February 2004
    This is not a movie for everyone. Some will enjoy it, some will hate it. It is an honest tale about everyday life. It is not a tale of explosions, murder, cops and robbers, etc. If you don't like character movies, you won't like this one.

    It is a very realistic story about wanting to get out of a small blue collar town, but having few options to do so. Edward Burns stars in this movie, but he also wrote and directed the movie too. He plays his part well, as does Lauren Holly. Jon Bon Jovi is not much of an actor, but I do believe this is his best acting effort to date. I would recommend that he continues to take acting lessons in order to get better.

    You can't help but like Edward Burns' character (Charlie), as well as Lauren Holly's character (Claudia). Blythe Danner does a great job of portraying Claudia's mother too, and is that sad, pathetic, lonely woman who refuses to believe her husband that left her will never come back. Charlie is the dreamer that had the courage to leave town before (and deserted Claudia in the process), but failed, and has come back again to try to get Claudia to come with him. With her, he believes he can succeed, and realizes he made a mistake leaving her.

    Unfortunately, Claudia is together with Charlie's old friend Michael (Bon Jovi), and Claudia doesn't want to be with Charlie after he hurt her by leaving. However, Caludia wants to get out of this town, and Michael doesn't want to ever leave, so they both know their relationship is not going to last. The rest of the story, well, you'll have to see it to see how it ends. But if you like character-based movies that depict a slice of real life, I think you'll enjoy this one.
  • My biggest grievance with No Looking Back is that it doesn't have a character like the ones Mike McClone played in The Brothers McMullen and She's the One. He had a great chemistry with Ed Burns who just isn't as funny without him. Having said that, No Looking Back is a nice little slice-of-life thing. It won't change your perception of life or anything else except perhaps Lauren Holly who is quite adorable. I give it a 6 out of 10.
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