Dir: Alan Rudolph. USA. 2000. 117 mins.

Prod Co: Sandcastle 5. Int'l sales: Pandora Cinema. Prod: Robert Altman. Exec prod: James McLindon. Scr: Alan Rudolph from a story by Rudolph and John Binder. DoP: Jan Kiesser. Prod des: Richard Paris, Linda Del Rosario. Ed: Michael Ruscio. Main cast: Emily Watson, Dermot Mulroney, Nick Nolte, Nathan Lane, Brittany Murphy, Lesley Ann Warren.

This may be Alan Rudolph's idea of a comedy but there will be precious few who share the joke. A typical, love-it or loathe-it offering from one of American cinema's most prolific mavericks, this quixotic screwball pastiche joins the recent Breakfast Of Champions among the list of wilfully uncommercial ventures from this filmmaker. Even a stellar, hard-working cast won't help attract a wider gathering than diehard Rudolph devotees.

Sporting an awkward American accent, wide-eyed Emily Watson seems far from comfortable with her role as the gum-chewing Mrs Malaprop of private detectives. This is entirely understandable given that she spends the entire film spouting increasingly tiresome dialogue such as: "do I have an ace up my hole'" and "I'm absolutely ravishing - where's the food'". It's difficult to invest your concern in a character who seems in need of medical attention.

A security guard at a lakeside casino, Watson stumbles across a murky, shaggy dog conspiracy apparently involving shady land developer Will Patton and corrupt state senator Nick Nolte. The usual ingredients of murder, mystery and romance are thrown into the air and land where they may as Watson attempts to unravel a suspicious death whilst trading banter with local lothario Dermot Mulroney.

If Rudolph intends to subvert the traditions of the hardboiled detective genre then he succeeds. His heroine is an undeniably unconventional character and we scarcely care about the resolution of the whole whodunit malarkey. As convoluted as Raymond Chandler at his best, Trixie is considerably less fun.