"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue


06 Apr 2002

Do you think that God does not see?


Sometime in May 1999

I bet you've never heard of this film. Or the play on which it's based. If I'm wrong, I apologize sincerely. But I suspect you're an untravelled rube just like me.

This is a film about... stuff. People, and how they treat each other. Ethics. Fun and what's not fun. It's about a bunch of people talking. If you don't like listening to ideas and banter, don't see this film. Watch television instead. On the other hand, if you want to see a solid collection of actors actually act, then this is a fair choice for you. Who do we have: Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Gary Shandling, Anna Paquin (she is no longer a young girl), and Meg Ryan.

It's an intense film. After watching it, I felt as if I had just stayed up for 40 hours straight in the company of Sean Penn. Which is not to say that I thought the film dragged, but it left me emotionally exhausted in the way that an all-nighter does.

I mention that it's from a play because I don't like films that are made from plays. They tend to suffer a certain staginess that I find detracting. So often we get the feeling that the characters would really like to go somewhere off stage, but know they can't because it's a stage. Films that are written directly for the screen are usually better at masking that real-life limitation. If we want to go out to a restaurant, we go out to a restaurant, and we actually see the restaurant and the throngs of people there. That's another thing you seldom see on stage: crowd scenes. "Coming soon to a theatre near you: Ben Hur -- The Stage Play". I imagine something about as exciting as a sock puppet show.

Fortunately, "Hurlyburly" manages to leave the stage at least a couple of times, so it's not quite as claustrophobic as it could be. But it's lineage still shows.