Top critical review
on 21 January 2016
I recently saw Kevin Spacey's excellent biopic of Bobby Darin, 'Beyond the Sea'. So when I saw this, I thought it might be another good night in. Wrong.
This is a clunky melodrama (with a laugh here and there) about Hollywood executive culture. It feels like the makers found some dodgy stage play which they figured could be economically converted for the big screen (99% studio interior shots on a handful of sets) and made to emerge like a pint-sized equivalent to Robert Altman's 'The Player'. Unfortunately it's more like one of those crappy studio films which appear as projects illustrating the world within which 'The Player's central producer character moves. In this case, 'a biting satire' made by disillusioned insiders.
Despite a cast of very decent actors giving of their best here, the crudely conceived story centres upon a small set of characters so stereotypical, that the drama feels self-conscious and plastic. When subtle, nuanced interactions are absent from dialogue as scripted, even the finest acting talent can do little more than try to sell the words convincingly. Here, they act merely like pros when the production seems to call for miracle workers.
Any satirical intention pretty much sinks under heavy-handed, industry in-jokes and flat direction. There are some smirky laughs at the cartoony antics of the central egocentric bully played by Spacey (in tits-out, nasty mode), but overall, tonal judgement seems off to me. Stagey. As if the makers couldn't settle on just how much melodramatic storyline was supposed to be satirical. It looks like the intention was to offer an entertaining artistic critique of a value system. A serious subtext you may have difficulty taking so, however.
For something attempting to be smart and sharp, stylistically this film is uninventive and derivative. There's even a cynical twist at the end --just like in 'The Player'. Released in 1994, it feels more like something from the 50's shot in the 80's. Complete with hammy flash-back inserts. Unhip when it begs to be so not that. As if it really mattered.
One to swerve.