Director Jeremy Kagan (The Journey of Natty Gann) says this new TV movie offers “a classic issue…Remember the day you went to visit your lover’s parents and they didn’t like you? That’s what’s at the heart of this piece.” But Descending Angel approaches this premise with typical TV-movie overstatement: When Diane Lane (Lonesome Dove) brings fiancé Eric Roberts (Runaway Train) home to meet papa George C. Scott, Roberts discovers not only that the older man hates his guts on sight, but that Daddy is a retired Nazi responsible for the slaughter of hundreds during World War II. Talk about not wanting to get off on the wrong foot with your future father-in-law.
Lane doesn’t believe Roberts when he tells her what he finds out about her father, so Roberts spends most of the movie trying to gather evidence of Scott’s war crimes; this is slow and predictable, as is the ridiculously overblown, violent ending. The best thing about Descending Angel is the acting. It’s been a long time since Scott was this subtle. Playing a Romanian hiding from his past in Michigan, he uses his booming, scratchy voice to play with his accent, and he’s terrific.
With his syrupy voice and intense gaze, Roberts is not your typical romantic lead; the wide slash of a mouth that he shares with his sister Julia looks predatory on him. In short, it’s interesting to watch him try to fasten his lips around Lane’s little bee-stung ones. The movie itself, however, is much more overheated than its actors, and its melodrama detracts from their performances. C