Filmmaker Stacey Cochran made a splash with “My New Gun” but didn’t make much of an impression with the Winona Ryder flick, “Boys”. I’ve heard the screening of this film at Sundance didn’t go over so well, either.
Working with Cochran for the third time is James Le Gros as writer Peter Barnes. A few years earlier, Peter wrote a scathing indictment of pro football, a book called “Drop Back Ten”. It didn’t sell so well, team owners sued him, and he’s been floundering ever since.
Calling in a favor, Pete’s assigned to do an article on 19-year-old actor Spanks Voley (Desmond Harrington) on a location shoot in South Carolina. Spanks has actually read the book and the two easily connect. On the night they meet, however, the young actor is dragged back into the restaurant after a brutal attack, and Pete finds himself in the middle of a much bigger story. Neither Spanks, nor his story are quite what they seem, but neither is Pete.
Pete’s a talented writer, but he’s lost his way. Initially, Cochran seems to be telling the story of how a few different people try to get their acts together, but really, it’s all about Pete finding out about himself through others and where his responsibilities lie. The writer’s real gift is for connecting with his subjects. At some point, though, you cross some thin line of intimacy and the difficulty lies in knowing when you’re being an honest writer and when you’re just exploiting your friends. By the time Pete realizes he’s too close, it’s too late. He has to make a definite choice between his own needs and those of others.
The true joy of the film is the depiction of the production crew on the film. From the director who won’t direct to the underlings vying for power, a whole wicked parody is topped off by an on-fire Tate Donovan as producer Wally Bixer. Wally is every Hollywood asshole fused to a cell-phone who wants credit for everything and takes blame for nothing. He’s frightened out of his mind that Pete will find or write anything negative (He does and he will). In Tate’s presence the film takes on a whole new life, not unlike most of the characters.
In the end, the movie has a hard time establishing energy as Le Gros spends too much time being cryptic and low-key, just like the two other main characters. Cochran could have used either more Tate or more Tates to keep the film from only drifting along.
Posted on February 6, 2000 in Reviews by Ron Wells
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