Paul Schrader directs Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lauren Bacall in this Washington D.C. drama where a gay gent who escorts and gossips with the wives of Capitol Hill is embroiled in a murder.
Robin Williams. John Goodman. Woody Harrelson. A rare breed of sitcom stars who transcended their famous breakout roles, became cinema A-Listers, who are as comfortable in drama as in comedy. When Fred Gwynne turns up in a flick you can only think of Herman Munster… there’s no need for green face paint or bolts in the neck. Could Courtney Cox BE any more like Monica? Yet Woody has had a prolific and admirable career traversing genre and prestige nimbly. Natural Born Killers and The Walker are the two times he really pushes himself. Neither film is wholly successful but Woody is consumate throughout.
Is Schrader particularly comfortable with a homosexual protagonist? His understanding of the gay scene seems to spring fustily from Friedkin’s Cruising and Tom of Finland. This aside though, it is a boon to see a movie where the lead happens to be gay (camp but complex) but the legs of the plot would work just as well however the sexual orientation of the character is defined. Schrader is far more happier muck raking through Guantamano and Industrial Military complex in general rather than deep diving into his character’s love life. So there’s that.
As a murder mystery it never really gels. As a delivery system for Harrelson’s velvety charmer sharing the stage with three ladies of Hollywood royalty, it is a hoot. These scenes of catty bonhomie fade away in the second half. What replaces them is pretty bog standard. There’s definitely a better movie in here. But as a showcase for Harrelson, it is well worth a look.
Perfect Double Bill: The Card Counter (2021)
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