The Escort
French title: Mauvaise Passe
dir-scr Michel Blanc
with Daniel Auteuil, Stuart Townsend, Liz Walker, Clare Skinner, Peter Mullan, Ben Wishaw, Noah Taylor, Beatrice Agenin, Amanda Ryan, Sarah Jane Potts, Keith Allen, Frances Barber
release France 17.Nov.99 UK 8.Dec.00
99/France-UK 1h46 2 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Poster boy. Misleading poster art for The Escort has Pierre (Auteuil) in action with a client. But this isn't just a sex film. Well, not entirely....
With an edgy filmmaking style, French writer-director-sometimes actor Blanc tells a gritty tale of life in London--interesting, but more than a little uneven and preachy. Pierre (Auteuil) is a 40-year-old Paris university professor who has run away to find himself in London. He can't focus on writing a novel, or much of anything else for that matter. And after a nasty incident he befriends sandwich shop manager Tom (Townsend), who moonlights as a male escort. Soon Pierre gets in the business as well, even falling in love with a coworker (Walker) who also has trouble connecting her, er, nightlife with her real-life responsibilities.

A decent central performance from the always superb Auteuil is what makes the film watchable, taking us along as Pierre tries to escape the predictability of his old life, is flattered by his ability to succeed in his new job, and then slips down the slope to addiction, self-delusion and eventually redemption. The story is far too arch and overwritten--complete with subplots involving Pierre's estranged wife and teen son, a drug dealer and a tormented client (Skinner). And it seems far too obsessed with Pierre's sexual escapades, while skimping on character development and the honest drama underneath. In other words, the morality is just too simplistic: prostitution dangerous, drugs bad, life confusing. Ho hum. On the other hand, the film is shot with realistic, sharp style, drawing on natural performances from the entire cast. So at least it keeps our attention, even if we're never really convinced by any of it.

[18--adult themes and situations, nudity, language, some violence] 4.Dec.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall