Daniel Craig plays a washed-up Hollywood star named Joe. He's a
coked-up, bed-hopping ne'er-do-well who doesn't give a damn about
anything. In the opening credits he beds a couple of lightweight bims
while the background score plays a powerful Jacquel Brel score about how
every adult, the tycoon and the homeless man alike, was once a child like
your own. (This song,
but not that particular performer.) The story begins in earnest the
next morning, when Joe awakens and gets a call from his dear, sainted mum,
who reports that Joe's best childhood friend has died unexpectedly while
in his early forties.
Given that set-up and the title of the film, can you guess what comes next?
Did I hear anyone say "Rosebud?"
You get a gold star if you guessed that the next act will involve a long,
long flashback about how the sweet British kid from the impoverished podunk
community became an American wastrel.
It's the requisite "film made for tragedy," because this is an
ambitious drama and most filmmakers seem to think that unremitting tragedy
is the correct recipe for proper drama. Since these films are designed to
attract female audiences, we can conclude one of two things: either (1) film
producers think women are really stupid; or (2) women really are stupid.
Which is true? More on that in the box office details which will conclude
What kind of tragedies does the story deliver?
Joe's best friend died at 40? Nothin'! That was the cheeriest thing in the
film. That was the freakin' comic relief! That character died leaving his
widow impoverished. The widow was the girl Joe loved and had a chance with
before he betrayed her with the local tart. Now we're getting to the really
good stuff. While Joe was balling the jack a second time with said tart, the
slutty woman sent her daughter out to play. The little girl wandered down
the shore until she found a land mine and started jumping up and down on it,
Honest to God. I didn't make that up.
Come to think of it, I guess this sort
of thing isn't so odd in the literary world. After all, this is the plot of
every John Irving novel, isn't it? Some adult indulges in some inappropriate
sexual escapade which almost immediately results in a major tragedy, often
the death of a child.
Anyway .... by now maybe you think that the film is kind of "piling on" in
the tragedy department?
Brother, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
This film may have wasted more talent than any 90 minutes in the history of
cinema. It features uniformly excellent performances down to the smallest
roles, a sound track which was chosen perfectly, evocative photography, and
some memorable moments. All of that strives mightily in the service of
something which really has almost no point. Yes, we did find out how the
idealistic boy became the bitter man after being shaped by overwhelming
losses and guilt in his adolescence, but the strange part of the script is
that there was no "Rosebud" moment. The film leads us to believe that the
childhood relationship between Joe and the recently deceased man will reveal
something important, but it never really does. We barely see young "Boots,"
and nearly everything we know about him is revealed to us by expository
dialogue. Later, back in the present, Joe is late for Boots's funeral. He
tries to make amends ...
Now here's what we get instead of "Rosebud":
He flies back to the States. His assistant picks him up at the airport. As
they talk in the car, seen but unheard by us, the camera pulls away from the
car, upward, ever upward until we are seeing the car from a bird's eye,
surrounded by thousand of others.
What the ...?
Why was that last portion back in the States included at all? If you know,
you write the rest of the review. I was expecting to see a word slide like
"A Quinn Martin production," with previews from next week's episode.
By the way, Daniel Craig was totally miscast in the lead. But then he was
the producer, so I suppose he had some influence in choosing the star. Oh,
he's an excellent actor and he certainly has the body to do the nude scenes,
but think about those nude scenes for a second. His character is a 40ish or
50ish guy who spends his life coking, boozing, sleeping until noon, then
drinking again when he wakes. How the hell could a guy like that have a body
like Craig's? Of course, if you're making a film which is designed to appeal
to women, you will probably want a hunky naked dude rather than a fugly one,
even if the script calls for a flabby guy.
Fact of life.
But cynical. Too cynical for a serious drama.
Returning to the question I asked earlier: Do chick-flicks like this get
made because women are dumb, or because film producers think they are? We
can answer that by analyzing whether all that contrived manipulation, the
tragedies and the male butts, got women into the theaters.
Uh ... no.
See the notes to the right.
In other words, women are not so dumb after all. You can't just throw up any
old weepy-ass soap opera plot, add Daniel Craig naked, and get women to
flock to the ol' Rialto.
Given those dismal results, and the cool to tepid reviews, there was
absolutely no attempt at a North American theatrical release,
despite the fact that Daniel Craig is now a pretty big star in the USA and
Disney had money behind the film.
By the way, the film is nowhere near as bad as my above words seem to
indicate. To be fair, it's a film with many positives, enough that the
producers and director probably dreamt it was "Oscar bait." That may
be so in an alternate universe, but not here. The whole of the film is far
less than the sum of its parts.