A fated love story with a soft centre, this tackles the familiar boy-meets-girl theme with an inoffensive and surprising sensitivity. Christian Slater is the introverted bus boy at a Minneapolis diner who believes he has a baboon's heart. Marisa Tomei is the beauty school dropout who works on the diner's late shift and whom he shyly worships while pushing his mop.
She's always being dumped by her boyfriends; he, according to fellow waitress Perez, "looks like a tumour". Then fate intervenes: following her home one night, he steps in to save her from being raped, and slowly a love affair begins.
Director Tony Bill handles his material with a pointed poignancy as Slater's monosyllabic, lank-haired simpleton comes out of himself and Tomei warns him: "I'm gonna fall in love with you." Plotwise nothing much happens, but the film works its charm in the quieter moments - through the subtlest nuances of dialogue and furtive glances of its two principals - and in the diner scenes where Tomei and Perez do little except josh, smoke, and fight with napkins and straws.
Slater, in his first really grown-up role, exhibits a breadth of emotions hitherto unrevealed by his teen performances and Perez (building on White Men Can't Jump) is a tangy, perky presence, a strutting bundle of nervous energy with a motormouth. There is no question, though, that this is Marisa Tomei's movie. She has an intensity that keeps your eyes focused and your brain in gear, and gives a performance of throat-tightening pathos that proves indisputably that My Cousin Vinny and its subsequent Oscar nod wasn't a fluke.
If the script lays the broken heart metaphor a tad too thick and the ending has a fatal inevitability that you can spot a mile off, Bill, to his credit, plays it all straight from the heart (pun intended). Go armed with a very large box of Kleenex.