Transformer

Indie queen Lili Taylor flips the script

Taylor relates her journey in Dogfight--from awkward date tortured in early '60s fashion to confident and principled rule-breaker--via the set of her shoulders, the tension around her eyes. And River Phoenix, as a callow Marine experiencing unexpected yearnings, physically mocks and tantalizes her in a complicated skirmish of yielding. For all its amateurish montage and soundbite politics, Dogfight represents Taylor's one great (little) movie. (And in this I include Short Cuts, which is not Taylor's movie to carry--and not holding up well over time, either.) The greatness of Dogfight may lie in the fact that, with Phoenix, Taylor has a combatant up to her challenge, one as committed as she is to fooling with gender and enacting transformation. Thanks to Savoca as well, Dogfight tracks a meeting of subjects, neither one of them the distanced symbol of something lost or escaped from: partners, as they must be, in change.

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