Friday, June 06, 2008



: R
: 98 minutes
: Marek Kanievska (Where the Money Is; A Different Loyalty)
: Harley Peyton (Bandits; “Twin Peaks”)
: Robert Downey, Jr., Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, James Spader, Brad Pitt, Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Lisanne Falk, Tony Bill, Nicholas Pryor, Donna Mitchell, Michael Bowen, Sarah Buxton, Michael Green, Brian Wimmer, Kelly Wolf, Jack Irons, Afton Smith, Neith Hunter, Tom Verica

Bret Easton Ellis books are, even by his own admission, very tough to adapt to the big screen. If you haven’t read any of his work (and you really should if you haven’t- he’s one of my favorite writers), the stories (particularly his earlier novels- “Less Than Zero” being his first) sort of float along aimlessly, revolving around a few central characters and the many other characters they run into it and the debauchery they are involved with. Yet, somehow, the three that have been adapted, including this one, “American Psycho”, and “The Rules of Attraction” have all been done quite brilliantly- more so the latter two. “Psycho” and “Rules” both benefited from having ace directors on board- Mary Harron (The Notorious Bettie Page; I Shot Andy Warhol) for the former and Oscar winning “Pulp Fiction” co-writer and “Killing ZoĆ«” director Roger Avary for the latter. They were both able to find a cohesive storyline and patch them together quite nicely and with a lot of effect to make them faithful enough to the novel to bare the titles, but different enough to stand alone on their own. Ellis himself has made similar comments in interviews, saying they were both made into accessible films. “American Psycho” has become a cult classic and was the best reviewed of the movies, while “The Rules of Attraction” should- and rightfully so- begin to gain it’s own cult, despite it’s oddly negative reviews upon it’s release (The movie is absolutely fucking brilliant. I was shocked by the critical reactions at the time). Even so, it fared far better than “Less Than Zero” did upon it’s release. “Zero” was pretty much universally slammed by the critics and ignored by movie goers at the time. Roger Ebert, who gave it a four star review (God bless him), seemed to be the only critic that understood what the movie was going for. He writes in his review- “The movie looks brilliantly superficial, and so Downey’s predicament is all the more poignant (he is a drug addict in the film): He is surrounded by all of this, he is in it and of it, and he cannot have it (referring to the glamorous, rich lifestyle of Beverly Hills). All he wants is to have a good time, but he is trapped in a paradox: Cocaine is the good time that gives itself away”. Ebert also writes about the deliberate cinematography by Ed Lachman to make the film look like high-priced fashion ads and slick TV commercials. He mentions that the pools are always azure blue, the homes look like sets, the people look like models, and the clubs look like music videos. Not to base my review entirely on Ebert’s, but he has it dead on and it’s a wonder that none of his contemporaries seemed to grasp that. Ellis, himself, at the time (still very young), was highly disappointed with the film because it doesn’t follow his book’s stories really in any way shape or form, “They only used my character’s names and that’s it”, but years later he admitted he re-watched it and liked it. I think he realized that the themes from his book were present in the movie and that, for a Hollywood movie, director Marek Kanievska, did the best possible job of adapting the novel that he could. If you haven’t read the novel (once again, you should if you haven’t)- some of the sequences include the characters watching a snuff film, a lot of sex- most of the characters are bi-sexual including Andrew McCarthy’s character here, a twelve year old girl chained to a bed and doped up to be used as a drug dealer ‘s (James Spader’s character here) sex slave, and a lot of stuff that basically wouldn’t have passed the censors for a major studio film back in 1987. Watching the movie today, twenty one years later and you have to admire Kanievska’s job even more. But the main thing that still stands out about the film is Robert Downey, Jr.’s tour-de-force performance as Julian Wells, Clay’s (McCarthy) best friend whom he has come home for Camden University (the college in "Rules of Attraction") to save him from his out of control drug addiction. An addiction that has gotten him into so much debt with his dealer (Spader), that Julian is being forced to whore himself out to break even. Downey has come out and stated that making this movie was what started to push him over the edge and make him a real life junkie. The way he engages himself in the role, it is no wonder. There’s a difference, I suppose, between Robert De Niro gaining a bunch of weight for “Raging Bull” and Downey becoming a drug addict for “Less Than Zero”, They both gave brilliant performances, but De Niro was able to drop his weight and go on with his life. Downey, sadly, ended up becoming his character for too many years after playing him. That that tragic chain of events took place makes the point of the film even more vital and Ebert’s quote hit home even harder- and it’s not just cocaine that’s the good time that gives itself away. It’s all drugs. Trust me.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
The J
imi Hendrix Experience- Fire
LL Cool J- Going Back to Cali

Buy the DVD Here
Buy the Soundtrack Here

This is the best I could find for a trailer. Sorry about the quality and abrupt ending.

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