Navigation Bar - Text Links at Bottom of Page


by: Scott Renshaw

Eddie (Sean Penn), a second-tier Hollywood player, is slowly realizing that Hollywood is a bad place to be if you feel things too deeply. His roommate and business partner Mickey (Kevin Spacey) thrives on a callous disregard for anything but immediate satisfaction; his friend Phil (Chazz Palminteri), a struggling actor, drifts into instability as he tries to save his failing marriage. In an environment where a homeless teenager (Anna Paquin) becomes a sexual "Care Package" from a colleague (Garry Shandling), Eddie is frustrated in his every attempt to make a genuine human connection. His life is a HURLYBURLY -- emotional turbulence occasionally interrupted by attempts at communication that come out "blah blah blah."

It's always in fashion to take a stab at the shallow white underbelly of Tinseltowners, but HURLYBURLY -- adapted by David Rabe from his play -- offers more than cheap shot industry-bashing. At its heart it's a study of a man who has set himself up for perpetual disappointment by being tempermentally incompatible with the people who surround him. Eddie fumes when Mickey pursues Darlene (Robin Wright Penn), a woman in whom Eddie is interested, foolishly ascribing scruples to Mickey; he is haunted by the image of a 6-year-old girl watching her mother perform oral sex, an incident Mickey barely recalls; he explodes when Darlene describes an abortion with the same ambivalence she applies to deciding where to have dinner. Sean Penn brings his edge-of-control intensity to Eddie, investing him with a savage humanity that can't be deadened by sex and drugs no matter how hard he tries. It's a riveting performance as one of the best-written characters of the year.

David Rabe's writing has the familiar rhythm of another playwright named David -- Mamet -- giving the dialogue the snap of exchanged gunfire. HURLYBURLY always feels like a film adaptation of a stage play, with the action centered at all times on character interaction, which is not to say that it's static or visually uncompelling. Director Anthony Drazan serves up some nice visual flourishes (a casket being lowered into the ground to reveal the Paramount water tower in the background, a cell phone conversation between cars driving side by side), and at least one scene of impressive tension involving a razor and a revelation. This is certainly a piece for actors above all, with a uniformly stellar cast -- be prepared to be surprised by Meg Ryan in a small role as a stripper -- but it's not a film where the camera sets up simply for people to deliver monologues. HURLYBURLY feels like its setting: smooth and slick, with something dark bubbling just underneath.

It's easy to get caught up in one element of a film's tone, particularly if previous films on a similar subject have led you to expect that sort of tone. Yes, HURLYBURLY is dark -- there are unhappy people who spend most of their time swearing, snorting or debasing other unhappy people, there is violence, and there is death. There is also a strangely touching friendship between Eddie and Phil which may be an insurance policy for Eddie against successful friends who could desert him, but could also be the only thing that saves his soul. There are moments of raw emotion that come from unexpected places and take unexpected forms. And there is the hope that a man can remember how to care. Those who see this as just another nihilistic stroll down Hollywood Boulevard aren't looking closely enough. HURLYBURLY may be talky, but the talk isn't cheap. That shallow white underbelly has rarely run this deep.

On the Renshaw scale of 0 to 10 Hollywood signs: 9.


Home | Theaters | Video | TV

Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.

2018 Cinema Review,  All Rights Reserved.


Find:  HELP!