Adapted from an autobiographical novel by Kaylie Jones, daughter of James Jones, Merchant Ivory's film offers a leisurely, episodic account of the experiences of a well-off American family seemingly fated always to be outsiders. It's not just that writer Bill (Kristofferson) and wife Marcella (Hershey) are a touch bohemian; they also live in '60s Paris, so that daughter Channe (Sobieski) and adopted son Benoît/Billy never quite fit in or make friends easily at school. Eventually, dad takes them back to New England, but things hardly improve: he's ailing, Channe, now in mid-teens, is having boy problems, and poor Billy's screwed up about his origins. Some rate this meandering film, probably for the solid performances and Ivory's 'sensitive' direction. Others, like myself, find it pretty pointless. The main problem is not the usual dull tastefulness, but Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's script, which never establishes any clear perspective, let alone who or what it's actually about: by the end, for example, we're clearly meant to admire and feel strongly about Bill's achievements as a husband and father - impossible given his earlier marginal role. Regrettably, the second best thing in the film - Channe's eccentric friend Francis (Costanzo) - is scuppered when he suddenly disappears from the narrative, while the best of all - a brief scene from a mind-bogglingly pretentious, coke-sniffing, crotch-rubbing production of Salome he and Channe go to see - is so funny and, well, different that one would far rather watch the whole opera than the film that frames it.