60-Second Critic June 2006


“I was like the great jewelers of the Byzantine, sorting through full stacks of stones,” says Emily, played by Kyra Sedgwick, of her quest to get pregnant by screwing so many guys that she won’t know who fathered her son, thereby having him all to herself. Native Philadelphian Kevin Bacon (Sedgwick’s real-life husband, above) artfully portrays her broken childhood in flashbacks (in a creepy twist, he appears as Emily’s father), and Sedgwick excels as a woman who, for all her boho-intellectual depth, is painfully incomplete. Emily’s devotion to her son—whom she nicknames Loverboy, to the revulsion of both him and the audience — quickly moves from touching to obsessive. Bacon makes an admirable feature-directing debut, but the overwrought dialogue and Emily’s speedy switch from eccentric to psychotic lose empathy. By the dark, twisty end, you’re just thankful the kid didn’t keep any wire hangers in his closet. Grade: C-—RICHARD RYS

Laundry Detergent
($10.49 for a 20-count pack)

The folks at Ardmore-based Cot’nWash have realized that most people hate doing laundry — especially lugging the big bottle of detergent around. This ranks on the obvious end of the epiphany spectrum, perhaps, but Cot’nWash decided to find a better way. The environmentally friendly cleaning-products company came up with Dropps: single-load-size concentrated detergent/fabric softener packets that dissolve in the wash. For anyone who has to walk more than 20 feet to do laundry, this is a welcome innovation. But the real surprise is how well the bite-size packets work. Our sample did just as good a job as the cup of Tide we normally dump in a load. The only drawbacks are a tendency for the packets to explode in transit, and limited availability: For now, you can only get Dropps online at the company’s website. Grade: B+— ANDREW PUTZ

The Man of My Dreams

By Curtis Sittenfeld
(Random House; $22.95)

Sittenfeld’s endearing follow-up to last year’s best-selling debut Prep reads less like a typical chick-lit novel and more like your best friend’s or your sister’s — or your very own — diary. It follows protagonist Hannah Gavener through her formative teens and college years at Tufts to her life after college, and has her grapple with all the (sometimes petty) issues women face but rarely talk about—“Is she prettier than me?” “Will I ever find someone to marry?” “I hate my cousin for getting all the guys.” Hannah can be annoying as hell, but mostly you’ll admire her quirks. And though you’ll root for her to land the guy, the book is all the better for the fact that she never quite gets what she wishes for. Poignant, funny and sincere, this is sure to become Center City resident Sittenfeld’s second best-seller. Grade: A-— BLAKE MILLER

The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers

By Barry J. Jacobs
(Guilford Press; $14.95)

This is no day in the park, but who’d expect sunshine in a book for those who care for dying parents? Jacobs, a Delaware County psychologist, is also a journalist (the Village Voice, Philadelphia) with a warm, intimate style. Through the fictionalized story of an elderly mother with cancer and her two very different daughters, he lifts every heavy rock caregivers can expect to trip over — fear, resentment, denial, jealousy, grief—and shines the strong light of common sense and compassion onto the family murkiness beneath. There’s plenty of practical advice on communication and finding meaning in suffering, but Jacobs’s most valuable contribution is that he lays out the most dreadful, selfish, unworthy thoughts anyone looking after a terminally ill parent could possibly have — and then assures us: Everyone feels that way. Grade: A— SANDY HINGSTON