By Alisa Cohen
Updated September 13, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
Empire Falls: HBO/Everett Collection

For a film that’s teeming with watery images, Empire Falls is a tad dry. You can’t fault its impeccable pedigree: the Pulitzer Prize-winning book as a foundation; its esteemed author, Richard Russo, as script man; the one-two punch of Paul Newman and Ed Harris as devilish father and angelic son. Ultimately, though, this small-town tale of squelched opportunities and family binds buckles under the weight of all its folksy metaphors and halfhearted romantic subplots. Even the mightiest of projects can drown in self-indulgence.

EXTRAS ”I thought this was going to be kind of like Mystery Science Theater…making sarcastic comments,” says Russo of his commentary with director Fred Schepisi. Not even close, as the duo ramble on about authenticity and continuity. But there are some interesting blips: Russo, for instance, discloses that a crafty cat might be the reincarnation of Robin Wright Penn’s character. The cast, meanwhile, is far from catty in the behind-the-scenes bonus, gushing about one another à la Inside the Actors Studio.

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