At 19, Liv Tyler has been a daughter to two rock legends (she called Todd Rundgren Dad until she was 10, then learned that Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler is her real father), the center of a feeding frenzy in Cannes, the star of a Bernardo Bertolucci movie, and, according to Tom Hanks, ”the oldest 18-year-old I’ve ever encountered.”
So much life experience; so little that comes through on screen. Tyler is that rare creature who is maturing as an actress without seeming to gain in finesse. She’s starred in six films to date, and while at her worst she’s a pouty-lipped, dead-voiced blank, at her more recent best, unexpectedly rich nuances can float up through the artless perfection of that face.
At least 1995’s Empire Records gives Tyler a part within her limits — a misunderstood rich girl working at a hip local record shop — and surrounds her with a sympathetic ensemble of peers. But the movie is too blatant a throwback to crass ’80s teen fodder to really work, and Tyler has the misfortune to have her big-emotional-snit scene right after Renee Zellweger has had hers. The comparison hurts: Zellweger gets across raw human pain, while Tyler just makes noise. C-