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'Face of Love' review: Weak version of 'Vertigo'

Ed Harris and Annette Bening in

Ed Harris and Annette Bening in "The Face of Love." Credit: IFC Films / Dale Robinette

There's an accelerated, Bernard Herrmann-ish pulse rate to a lot of the music in writer-director Arie Posin's "The Face of Love," an acknowledgment, perhaps, that we've been here before. Nikki (Annette Bening) certainly has: Five years after her husband (Ed Harris) has drowned, she spots his spitting image (also Ed Harris) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It's a place her husband used to frequent, too. And where nobody, apparently, ever noticed two guys who looked just like Ed Harris.

Doppelgänger romances -- Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" and Krzysztof Kieslowski's "The Double Life of Veronique" are two rather magnificent examples of the form -- are working with a major implausibility. Not so much that everyone on Earth has a doppelgänger, but that they might run into each other, however indirectly. As Nikki tries to keep her new boyfriend Tom (Ed Harris) secret from Roger (Robin Williams), the neighbor who longs for her, and her soon-to-be-hysterical daughter (Jess Weixler), Nikki stretches the bounds of credibility so tautly that one could pluck out the theme song to "The Patty Duke Show."

As usual, Harris and Bening are great to watch, even as they navigate the road to love in parallel universes -- "You look at me like no one ever has before," Tom says to Nikki, clueless that she's really looking at her late husband. Like Kim Novak in "Vertigo," Tom would be highly insulted to think he was just a stunt double for a dead man. Viewers won't be as wounded by "The Face of Love." Just a little put out.

PLOT An L.A. widow runs into, and woos, her dead husband's doppelgänger.

RATING PG-13 (brief drug references)

CAST Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Robin Williams


BOTTOM LINE A weak-tea version of "Vertigo" in which contrivances abound.

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