There was this one rumor that I heard, about this movie named "Gossip,"
directed by TV veteran David Guggenheim ("NYPD Blue"). Supposedly, it started
out a little shakily, but once it got going (at around the 30-minute mark),
the pacing, performances, and plot developments really crackled. All elements
were building up momentum to the ever crucial climactic moments, and
then--like a swift kick in the pants--the final twist startles you and, at
the same time, makes you angry and feeling like you have wasted your time.
Brainy Jones (Lena Headey), struggling artist Travis (Norman Reedus), and
womanizer Derrick (James Marsden) are students at a posh university who share
an even more posh (if that's possible) apartment. It looks like it has the
type of extravagantly hip living arrangements that would be made for the cast
of MTV's "The Real World." But anyway, one night while the trio are at a
party, Jones gets an idea of what they could do for their class project in
their Journalistic Ethics class: start a harmless rumor, and then track it
down to see how far it spreads, and how the gossip's subject evolves from
person to person. While up in the bathroom with a drunk potential
one-night-stand, Derrick spies on the wealthy Naomi (Kate Hudson) and her new
boyfriend Beau (Joshua Jackson). Both have had too much to drink, and once
Naomi passes out on the bed, Beau ends his advances and leaves. Or maybe he
doesn't, as the rumor the three start up is that Beau and Naomi had sex,
something hard to believe considering that Naomi is known to not put out for
Soon, the news has spread to practically the whole school population, with
each person believing something different. Supposed to be a funny experiment,
Jones grows more and more guilty when the rumor transforms into something
potentially very dangerous, as it becomes believed that Beau raped Naomi, and
the police are brought in. Jones urges Derrick and Travis that all three
should come clean, confessing to starting something that was far from the
truth, but without any textual evidence, none of them can prove a thing.
Meanwhile, the lives and futures of Naomi and Beau begin to crumble.
Ultra-glossy and stylishly filmed by cinematographer Andrezej Bartkowiak,
from what I've also heard, "Gossip" is sort of like a cross between "Cruel
Intentions" and "Body Shots," but without the humor and feeling of the
former, and a noticeably giant step up from the vacuous latter. Like both
pictures, every shot is picturesquely planned out to look beautiful and
atmospheric, a production designer's wet dream; all of the actors are
appealing, fairly talented, and physically to die for; and several of the
characters are cold, emotionless people who do very bad things but,
ultimately, are bound to receive their just desserts.
Where "Gossip" fails is in its fairly empty, rushed screenplay by Gregory
Poirier and Theresa Rebeck, which often moves so quickly (especially in the
first-third), it's as if you are viewing an outline to a finished product,
one in which the figures onscreen have not been fully written or thought out.
When, midway through, there is a quiet, one-on-one sequence between Jones and
the distraught Naomi, it is a startling shift, but one that comes
refreshingly not a moment too soon, and throws the entire second half on a
far more successful, taut, and involving course.
Lena Headey and James Marsden both manage to stand out in the central roles
of Jones and Derrick, with Headey turning in a sympathetic portrayal of a
young woman who realizes her mistakes but fears it is too late to turn things
around, and Marsden is every bit her match as her brooding, highly sexual
friend-cum-potential-bedmate. Norman Reedus has less to do as the
work-starved Travis, the final piece of the three major players. Rounding out
the cast in relatively brief, less-developed roles are Kate Hudson (as the
confused Naomi), Joshua Jackson (as Beau), and Marisa Coughlan (as Jones'
"Gossip" has many intriguing elements that might have equaled up to more in a
tighter screenplay, but it ultimately doesn't satisfy once the end credits
have begun to roll. And the final turn in the plot simply leaves you angry,
as its own contrivances fail to hold up scrutiny upon inspection. I heard all
of this through the grapevine, though, and although only a rumor, "Gossip" is
an allegedly OK type of movie--a film worth a look if there's nothing better
to do (or see), but one than can also afford to be missed.
Copyright © 2000 Dustin Putman