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
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.