It would be easy to miss the point of a film like 'Hurlyburly'. That is
if it had one. I've been a movie critic for 15 years and I don't think
I've ever seen a more pointless film that rambles on and on and on like
a broken record and when it's over, it's no closer to having said
anything in its final 10 minutes than in its opening running time of the
Set in Hollywood Hills, Eddie and Mickey (Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey)
play room mates who are successful talent agency executives and are well
on their way to becoming major Hollywood players. They wallow in all
the excesses of classic tinsel town life. Snorting cocaine, picking up
drifting hookers and bringing them home for wild sex, indulging
themselves in the extremes of alcohol. And when it's all said and done,
it's real but you won't care one bit.
Also along for the socially unredeeming ride is Phil (Chazz
Palminteri). Phil is an ex-con who always wears a leather jacket and
tries to pass himself off as the GQ end of the movie business. Nothing
more than a Hollywood wannabe, Phil wants to be a stuntman and goes on
endless cattle calls only to be passed over each time he auditions.
Quick tempered and having had many different children with many
different women, Phil is perhaps the most amoral of the bunch and his
fate is of little consequence or surprise.
Others characters in the film are Artie (Gary Shandling). Artie is a
close friend of Eddie and Mickey's who pops by for the occasional boys
night out and his character is perhaps the most pointless male in the
film. The female characters are even more disappointing. Meg Ryan is
Bonnie, a stripper with a child who comes to party at the whim of a
phone call. Robin Wright Penn is Darlene, an actress struggling to make
it with more than just her talent and Anna Paquin is Donna, a drifter
and air head who looks for her next meal ticket and place to call home
around every corner.
'Hurlyburly' has a companion film in 1998 known as 'High Art'. This
film knew when to listen and when to keep quiet. It displayed the seedy
side of big city life, the consequences of drug use, and low morals with
polish and a sedated side to its personality. 'Hurlyburly' is like a
car wreck with no chance to breathe, an extremely high decibel level,
and a screenplay by David Rabe, based on his play, that tries too hard
to look like a well written piece of art when it is nothing more than a
two hour play on semantics with a calculating sense of the preposterous.
Director Anthony Drazan is a slave to the film's screenplay, adding no
injection of his own vision and there is a scene in the final third of
the film where Eddie and Darlene have sex and upon leaving the bed, the
long arm of a boom mic is visible in a mirror for about thirty seconds!
This really is professional film making?!
How a cast like this could be coaxed into such a mess is a mystery.
Despite their energy and convincing styles, I suspect that they wanted
to make a film with long takes, limited editing and a chance to put any
actor's true test of talent (the stage) on celluloid in a filmed stage
play that is as desirable to watch as falling into a bottomless
Copyright © 1998 Walter Frith