November 07, 1994 12:00 PM

Harvey Keitel, Fairuza Balk, Kelly Lynch

Keitel is a pro of a con man who would try to sell nail polish to the Venus de Milo in this deeply affecting adaptation of Sheila Ballantyne’s 1992 novel. A mining engineer by trade and an adoring if ill-prepared husband and father by temperament, he’s always bristling with plans that are just a technicality away—for example, a device to restore the nap to serge suits. Meanwhile, his wife (Lynch) waits at home in a basement apartment, seeking solace in solitaire, movies and their two daughters (Balk and Elisabeth Moss).

Filtered through the memories of 17-year-old Balk, Imaginary Crimes chronicles Keitel’s struggles as he tries to make it big and to make a home for his family. He’s a careless and complicated man, building castles in the air for which others pay the upkeep. Landlords, housekeepers, investors, the parents of Balk’s school friends—he charms them all and, despite the best of intentions, stiffs them all. But the movie is as much about Balk’s attempts to free herself from her father’s thrall as it is about Keitel’s pipe dreams. Keitel and Balk give such rich, deeply felt performances that quibbling about the movie’s lapses seems a bit of a crime. (PG)

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