October 28, 2002 12:00 PM

Auto Focus
Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Rita Wilson, Maria Bello, Ron Leibman

When actor Bob Crane’s first wife discovers in his darkroom piles of photos of naked cuties he has snapped, she plaintively asks her husband, “How many women are there?” He can’t answer–he lost count years ago.

Crane was the seemingly nice-guy star of the popular sitcom Hogan’s Heroes (1965-71). While in Arizona on a dinner-theater tour in 1978, he was fatally bludgeoned in his bed, a murder for which no one was ever convicted. After his death, the public learned what many in Hollywood had long known: Crane was a sexaholic who hung out at strip clubs and often videotaped his frolics and even orgies.

Auto Focus, a dark, fascinating film about the corrosive effects of celebrity and ego, zooms in on Crane (Kinnear) with merciless clarity. Kinnear impressively nails the role, getting not only Crane’s physical mannerisms but something deeper. He portrays an amoral man who fails to grasp that his promiscuity is ruining his family life and, eventually, his career. When a friend advises him to keep it zipped, Crane says dismissively, “A day without sex is a day wasted.”

Director Paul Schrader (Affliction) deftly shows that, in the midst of the sexual revolution, Crane’s relentless scaling of the barricades led inevitably to a precipitous fall. In addition to Kinnear, there are first-rate performances by Wilson and Bello as, respectively, Crane’s first and second wives, and by Dafoe as a creepy pal who may have been Crane’s killer. (R) Bottom Line: One sharp picture

Real Women Have Curves
America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros

Featured attraction

Thanks to the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, terrific little movies featuring unknown actresses who don’t fit the Barbie mold and whose characters have big families that yell are now going to make their way into theaters. May they all be as delightful as Real Women Have Curves.

This winning coming-of-age comedy stars talented newcomer Ferrera as Ana Garcia, a heavyset Latina who spends the summer after graduating from high school ironing dresses at her older sister’s small garment factory in downtown L.A. Though Ana is bound for better things—an ex-teacher keeps after her to apply to Columbia University-she must first come to terms with her carping mom (Ontiveros), learn to appreciate how hard her sister (Ingrid Oliu) works and become comfortable in her ample skin.

Directed with great warmth by first timer Patricia Cardoso, Curves is remarkable for the generosity it extends toward its characters. Ferrera glows throughout while Ontiveros gives a complex, layered performance as a mother who knows only too well that her baby is all grown up. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: A big, fat winner

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