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dir Gregor Jordan
scr Bret Easton Ellis, Nicholas Jarecki
prd Marco Weber
with Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke, Jon Foster, Amber Heard, Austin Nichols, Lou Taylor Pucci, Chris Isaak, Brad Renfro, Mel Raido, Rhys Ifans
release US 24.Apr.09, UK 17.Jul.09
09/US Senator 1h38
Friends and lovers? Nichols and Foster
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Here's another entry to the all-star multi-strand Los Angeles ensemble drama genre (see Short Cuts, Magnolia, CRASH, SOUTHLAND TALES). But while this one features strong acting and stylish filmmaking, it's emotionally empty.
In 1983 L.A., studio exec William (Thornton) wants to reconcile with his heavily medicated wife Laura (Basinger) while continuing to see his self-doubting TV newscaster mistress (Ryder). Their son Graham (Foster) is indulging in drugs and sex with his girlfriend (Heard) and best pal (Nichols), who's also sleeping with Laura for cash. Meanwhile, Graham's doorman (Renfro) is trying to please his criminal father figure (Rourke), but Graham's friend Tim (Pucci) has no interest in connecting with his dad (Isaak).
Based on a book of intertwined stories by Ellis, the film is infused with his astute take on the 1980s lifestyle of the rich and lazy, as echoed in references to Reagan, group sex, Aids and the ubiquitous MTV. But unlike Less Than Zero or especially AMERICAN PSYCHO, this film fails to capture Ellis' sarcastic tone. Instead of wry observations, we get wallowing drama. Individual scenes are sharply well-directed by Jordan, but the characters are far too shallow and aimless to care about.
This isn't the cast's fault. The standout is Ryder, who quietly creates the film's only sympathetic character. Basinger is also good in a showier role, while Pucci and the late Renfro find resonance in their maddeningly underwritten scenes. And Foster does a nice job in the central role, around whom everyone else connects. We're interested in him and want to know more about the ambiguous situations and feelings he encounters, but nothing ever comes into focus.
This is a big problem in a film like this, which needs the momentum of dramatic tension to carry us to a climactic convergence of the themes. But this never happens. We think it might come through the impending concert performance of a junkie rock star (Raido) or a pivotal confrontation between William and Laura or Tim and his father. But every plot fizzles out in a vague sense of tragic angst. And in watching people live such vacuous, clone-like lives of privilege and decadence, it's impossible to feel anything for them.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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