THE MOVIE OPENS LIKE a period piece, with the camera moving through the '50s furnishings of a house to find Bob Hoskins cooking along with a black-and-white TV cooking show. Actually Hoskins is the meticulous chef of a factory cafeteria. He's a man out of time, living in the comfort of the house he grew up in. We soon discover that the woman on the old cooking show was his mother, with whom he has tons of unresolved issues.

Meanwhile, Felicia (Elaine Cassidy) is fresh off the boat from Ireland, trying to find the "lawnmower factory" where the soldier who knocked her up claimed to have gotten a job. It's not until their paths cross several times that Hoskins decides to help her. Or is it more selfish than that? Though he seems to be a gentleman, years of massive repression have led to creepy and erratic behavior, particularly around young women.

Director Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) excels at stories of older men who are lost within themselves (whereas his lost young women tend to feel more like plot devices), and Felicia's Journey is no exception. The first half of this beautifully photographed movie is stunning. Once the characters are fully introduced, however, the plot stalls and even makes a turn toward cliché.

I spoke with Bob Hoskins on a staticy international phone line. He told me he can't imagine another Roger Rabbit movie, and that he would take the role of Hannibal Lechter from his friend Anthony Hopkins if it was offered to him. About Egoyan he says, "As soon as I met Atom, I think we both knew we were gonna get along. He's quite intense, but very funny. He's not at all like you'd expect. It's a bit like working with Groucho Marx. But when it actually comes to what you put on celluloid, he's very delicate, very structured."

Hoskins says of Felicia's Journey, "I can't see it being the next Titanic, but I think it'll have quite a long life, because it is a very, very well made film." That is true, particularly in the first half.

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