In HURLYBURLY, Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey play Eddie and Mickey, two
buddies and coworkers who live in a sea of drugs. Sharing a plush pad
that overlooks the Hollywood hills, they are acting agents who are
making more money than is good for them. Even though there is little to
eat at their place other than moldy Ding-Dongs, they always have an
expensive stash of cocaine and other drugs.
In what is supposed to be an indictment of the non-existent morals among
some in the movie business, the characters spend little time on the job.
The script by David Rabe, based on his play, is unfocused and almost
incomprehensible. Perhaps it worked on the stage, but the film version
is a disaster that is only made partially watchable by some wonderful
ensemble acting by a talented crew, who play characters bent upon
various forms of self-destruction.
In his usual masterful performance Kevin Spacey displays what passes for
sanity in an insane environment. Mickey is as cool as Eddie is red hot.
"I'm a real person!" Eddie screams as he cries and jumps up and down
like a toddler who has to go to the bathroom now or he's going to wet
his pants. That Sean Penn can do such overblown parts without
overacting is a testament to his abilities. "I know I don't know what I
mean, which is better than most people," Eddie confesses towards the
The extremely talky script revels in its obtuseness, with easily half of
the conversation being conducted on cell phones. Most lines make no
sense whatsoever, although some are so ridiculous that they are
downright funny. "I have thoughts sometime that can break my head
open," Chazz Palminteri says as Phil, an ex-con and would-be actor
friend of Eddie's. Phil is such a lowbrow that any intellectual
activity might short-circuit his brain.
The male oriented story has men "giving" women to their friends and
tossing them out of speeding cars when they grow bored with them. Among
these "disposable" women is Donna (Anna Paquin), a young runaway who
lives in Artie's (Garry Shandling) elevator until he takes her to his
apartment for sex. Like a slave, she is offered to Mickey and Eddie
when they drop by.
Meg Ryan plays Bonnie, a hooker whose claim to fame is that she will do
absolutely anything. In the film's only serious moment, Eddie tries to
see if his friends have any morals at all by reminding them that
Bonnie's 6-year-old daughter watched in catatonic horror the last time
they hired Bonnie to perform sex on a friend from out of town. Mickey
looks briefly like he will be affected but blows it off with a joke
about how at least they didn't set the kid on fire.
Robin Wright plays Eddie's girlfriend, Darlene. "I can't stand this
semantic insanity any more," she yells after Eddie picks a big fight
with her when she doesn't express a preference between a French
restaurant and a Chinese one. "I'm finished," she concludes. You'll
probably feel the same way about the movie.
"What's he talking about?" Donna asks Eddie about Phil's
circumlocutions. This is a question that the audience will be asking
themselves throughout most of the movie.
HURLYBURLY runs 2:02. It is rated R for pervasive drug abuse, sex,
profanity and brief nudity. I would consider the film not acceptable
for those younger than college age.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes