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'Achilles' Love'

New films off the beaten path

Friday, October 13, 2000

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Much of the charm of the locally produced romantic comedy "Achilles' Love" lies in the way it reflects one of Pittsburgh's biggest virtues, its sense of community.


'Achilles' Love'


2 1/2 stars


The word has several meanings in director Meredith Cole's film, getting its first local commercial run at the Denis Theater (it has been shown here earlier under its previous title, "Achilles' Heel," in benefit screenings and as part of the Three Rivers Film Festival).

The protagonist, a 30-year-old insurance agent named Achilles "Ike" Mannis (Mather Zickel), wears his Greek ethnic heritage proudly, even when the old men at the social club hector him about getting married. Their traditional dances play an integral part in several key scenes.

The movie offers appealing views of another of Ike's communities. He lives on the South Side, which looks in the movie like the ethnically diverse young people's paradise we dream the city at large could become. The movie feeds the fantasy with its occasional picture-postcard views of the Downtown skyline.

Ike lives in such a close-knit world that he finds the woman of his dreams, Lucy Boxwell (Claudia Besso), living across the hall from him. She works for a struggling dance company selected for a regional competition. Here is yet another community, the often supportive and sometimes backbiting world of the arts.

Yes, there is conflict swirling around (and sometimes within) these communities. Ike's father co-founded the company where he works by offering insurance to members of the Greek community, sometimes carrying them when they couldn't afford to pay. Ike's soulless new boss wants to cut them off, not understanding how the ties of community strengthen the company.

Ike falls for Lucy, but his conniving friend Connan Charles (John Mouganis, also the film's executive producer and co-writer with Heidi Haaland) also sets his sights on her, not knowing she's Ike's girl. Lucy, meanwhile, has her hands full just trying to keep the company afloat.

"Achilles' Love" exhibits some disadvantages of its low budget -- choppy camera work and editing, inconsistent acting. Some of the supporting characters are overplayed for comic or villainous effect.

But the overall effect is pleasing enough, and the movie exhibits one more sense of community -- a gaggle of local actors, including such stalwarts as Doug Mertz, Harry O'Toole and Zachary "Bill" Mott, and behind-the-scenes people, including producer Chris McIntyre.

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