Release Date: October 7, 2005
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Colin Firth; Kevin Bacon; Alison Lohman; Rachel Blanchard; David Hayman
This is an interesting little noir. Not as tight as it could probably be, but still a twisty diversion.
Vince Collins (Colin Firth) and Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) are a Martin and Lewis style nightclub act in the late 1950s. Telethons, hotel openings, and the like. They are rock star famous and live their lives as such, with hookers, pills, booze…you know the drill. One day in their New Jersey hotel suite, a chambermaid is found dead in a bathtub. How did she get there? How and why did she die? Who is responsible? Both Collins and Morris have airtight alibis, yet she was found in the bathtub in their hotel room. Not long afterwards, their winning relationship falters and the duo breaks up.
Flash forward 15 years and budding investigative journalist Karen O’Connor (Alison Lohman) manages to secure a million dollar deal from a book publisher to interview Collins and get to the bottom of the mystery. What she uncovers is probably a bit more than she bargained for.
This film would definitely fall into the ‘style over substance’ category of mainstream films. The story is pure pulp, even dime store novel trashy, but director Atom Egoyan (“Exotica”) slathers on the gloss and visual sheen, as if the story needed to be any more lurid. The California and Florida sunshine are bright and just a tad hazy, giving the impression that one is viewing the images with a slight hangover. That’s probably a good mindset to be in while watching the film, since most of the characters are presented as perpetually hung-over themselves. The film jumps back and forth from 1959 to 1972 with seeming abandon that can become irksome. Flashbacks and forwards are fine, but there are a bunch right in the beginning that make the plot lineage more confusing than it should be up front.
The performances by all leads are fine. Firth basically plays the same buttoned-up Brit he always plays, albeit a little sleazier than your typical Darcy, and Bacon adds another interesting role to his oeuvre. Kevin Bacon really has grown into a substantial actor, taking roles that are not easy and more often than not, controversial and layered. Such is the case with his Lanny Morris. Bacon slowly uncovers the masks that conceal the true Morris, and he makes him a vivid and interesting character. A lot of people have complained that Lohman is miscast in this role, but I didn’t think so. She was just fine as the young, ingénue reporter, getting her story through not always ethical means. She acted off of more seasoned pros like Firth and Bacon nicely and I had no problems with her. Rachel Blanchard, as the doomed Maureen, also turned in a nicely layered performance that was more than just ‘the girl who gets killed,’ and David Hayman as Bacon’s faithful valet injects a certain world-weariness, seen-it-all-and-cleaned-it-up-ness to his part.
As mentioned before, the story is pulp, no two ways about it. But it offers a twisty, although not really all that plausible, narrative and some surprises that I didn’t see coming. Overall, a fairly decent noir and if noir is your thing, you could do worse.