Out of Order (2003) from Tuna

Out of Order (2003-TV) was a Showtime mini-series, and the pilot episodes have been released as a film. The project was originally intended as a feature, but only Showtime expressed an interest, and writer/director/producer husband and wife team Donna and Wayne Powers went for the money. This is a partially auto-biographical piece about a husband and wife team of Hollywood writers whose marriage is in trouble. The goal of the film seems to make us feel sorry for all the rich and pretty people in Hollywood, because their personal lives are not as pretty as they are. I have a lot of trouble finding any sympathy for people who live in huge homes in good neighborhoods, drive a Mercedes, have a bright child who does well in school, sports, and just about everything else.

Yes, the wife (Felicity Huffman), has suddenly realized she was molested as a child, has chronic insomnia, and is clinically depressed, but any sympathy I might have had with her character was squelched by the fact that she was self-medicating with gin and illegal drugs. The husband, Eric Stoltz, was somewhat likeable. The story ends up chronicling an affair between him and Kim Dickens. She was a soccer mom, and part of their circle of friends.

They spiced up the narrative with a gimmick of having Stoltz see his life as a movie, which allowed the writers to insert fantasy sequences and show camera crews as part of the story, including a Raging Bull parody of Huffman confronting her parents at Thanksgiving dinner. There were some good comedic moments, and there was even one memorable line, "I feel like a guest in my own life." 


Eric Stoltz and Kim Dickens showed the full monty. In some frames, it appears that they were really doin' it.

DVD info from Amazon

  • full length commentary

The real problem with the film is asking us to spend time with, and feel sorry for, a bunch of people we have nothing in common with, and don't much like. My reaction to the feature length commentary iterated why I was not impressed with this film. I did not like the writers, or really care about what they were trying to say.

It was only when Kim Dickens was on screen that the film worked for me and, after the slow build-up, the Stoltz/Dickens sex scenes really sizzled. It is not that they were especially explicit, but that their mutual desire was palpable.

The Critics Vote ...

  • The few reviews were split, but this was judging Out of Order against other made for cable fare.

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. I must say, even though I was bored and uninvolved in most of the story, the affair was engrossing, and Dickens was adorable. As a mature TV mini-series, this is a C solely on the strength of that one plot element.

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