This movie is made for those who love and appreciate fine acting, and yeah it is like fine wine, and in many cases it does get better with age. The acting is so great in fact that you begin to be thankful for the sub-par directing, makes the great acting performances seem to last longer, and maybe even forgive the awkward screen adaptation.
As I was watching the movie I had the impression that Gregor Jordan’s directing seemed distracted or maybe even overwhelmed by the project and by having the opportunity to work with a tremendous roster of some of the most experienced actors in Hollywood, and some really talented younger ones as well. As I learned later that’s not really the case but its rather a matter of Mr. Jordan trying desperatly to piece together what surely was a ridiculous screen adaptation.
The pace of this movie is really, well , it’s not easy to characterize. Jordan does have quite a few really brilliant moments when his hands-off approach, merciful lack of quirky camera angles and letting the pros do their thing truly creates movie magic, but that’s also the problem with the movie. It’s more of a collection of great scenes lacking a strong directorial hand to knit them together and to keep the movie on pace. The format of the screen play itself – seemingly unrelated story lines weaving in and out of each other’s existence – is really a minefield for a directors. Gregor Jordan does avoid blowing up the movie on any of those mines but he navigates trough that mine field at a pace that is in contrast with the fast and furious lives of the characters.
Since we are on the subject of the screenplay, it is an adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’ novel by the same name. Mr. Ellis collaborated on adapting his novel into a big screen script with newcomer Nicholas Jarecki and hence the problem. I wasn’t there so I don’t know what happened, but I suspect that, like all writers, Ellis jealously guarded the adaptation to be as faithful to the novel as possible, Mr. Jarecki didn’t have the pull or knowledge to correct him, and the end result is a train wreck of a script that landed in the director’s lap.
You are sitting there watching the movie wondering why they didn’t at least allow a good editor to fix this movie and then you realize, there is some really top notch acting going on hereh, I think I’ll stay.
The performances of Billy Bob Thorton and Kim Basinger as estranged husband and wife rival any put on celluloid anytime, anywhere by anyone. Billy Bob Thorton shows exactly why he is arguably the most accomplished actor in Hollywood today. Kim Basinger rises to the challenge and gives us her best performance since LA Confidential and, for my money, I have to tell you that I think she bettered it.
My favorite scene in the movie is a duet with Billy Bob Thorton and Winona Ryder, as his mistress, stealing a rendezvous in the ladies room of an LA Restaurant as the former’s family is waiting at a table in the dining room. It’s a short scene in a relatively minor role, but I have never seen Winona Ryder do better. Ms. Ryder recaptures the sparkle of the troubled teen from Girl Interrupted, subdued by the years gone by and the daily grind of the successful career woman of the early eighties. In that scene, dialogue seems almost superfluous and we are transported back in time to the glory days of Hollywood. Seriously, it’s really that good.
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that Brad Renfro ‘s portrayal of “wrong side of town” Jack, the doorman is the best that I’ve seen him do and at the very least it rivals that of Thorton or anyone else in the movie. ( The morons who wrote that “we don’t know if he is acting or he was just being himself” should borrow a few bucks and go rent some shame) Alas this was his last rolle as he passed away last year of a drug overdose. Hollywood and us will miss him and we will be deprived of seeing a talented actor.
Here’s the rub, apparently somewhere in the three year long write and rewrite of this movie there was a vampire plot and some other such supernatural nonsense that the director edited out. This does however create a pretty big and confusing gap and a couple of minor ones as well. A young boy is kidnapped and sold as would be hors d’ouvers for the un-dead beasts. The thing is that without knowing that there are vampires lurking about the audience doesn’t really know what to fully make of this subplot.
That the bat-boys and gals were tossed out of the movie is probably a very good thing. Do we really need a “Lost Boys Sequel?” That the rest of the movie wasn’t massaged better to integrate the rest of the stories is not. What is left is a collection of short stories some of which have more to do with each other and some of which don’t.
I suppose that in that way the movie sort of resembles real life and it’s not lost on anyone that the director might have intentionally done that, but if you are going to make an avante guard movie warn me ahead of time. If not, then try hard to not make the movie as disjointed as real life. We get enough of that for free. There is no plot – just sex, debauchery, some regret, a little redemption, a generational tug-of-war, lots of drugs, a bit of death, and life goes on.
Oh yeah and the movie probably has a record number of Wayfarers per inch of celluloid, but weren’t they great?
Is this Hollywood begging for forgiveness?
Along with the acting, this is the other reason to go see this movie – the life of a powerful Hollywood executive, his family, their friends and associates is shown in all its glory and all its misery. From the glitz of a paparazzi flanked red carpet fund raiser, to habitual multi-partner sex, to drugs, and finally to the misery and pain of AIDS – the movie wraps it all up and puts in on display for you to see. (The reviews from other critics are evidence that freaks really don’t like mirrors.) The lives of young people that have everything except moral compasses handed to them on platinum platters, quickly dissolve into meaningless abhorrent drifts of debauchery interrupted by occasional bouts of reflection and the inevitable scream of agony that that fleeting moment of lucidity brings. Somewhere in all of this a clumsy awkward doorman with dreams of movie stardom is trying to find a way to get inside what, from his vantage point, seems to be the circle of happiness. That he never gets in and that he’ll never know how lucky he was is just another of the great subplots of this movie. What he does get to do is to provide the symbolic redemption for all those involved.
Graham, played very well by Jon Foster is the heir apparent to his father’s entertainment fortune, and, as such, is the prototypical and timeless poor little rich boy. In yet another great scene, his friend (and sometimes lover and sometimes lover of his girlfriend and sometimes lover of his mother – you get the picture right?) asks why someone who has everything is complaining. Graham’s response is the movie and is the summary of the human condition from Cain to 1980’s Hollywood and forevermore, “I just need someone to tell me what’s right and wrong.”
Oh yeah, you think Hollywood will ever forgive a movie that brings forth a statement like that?
If you can stand the sex and drugs scenes, go see the movie. It has a lot of merit (even if does seemingly lack a plot) and great acting.