Saturday, April 19, 2003

Not a bad afternoon at the movies

I saw Phone Booth.

This film is very old fashioned, but pretty taut and a good thriller. Colin Farrell plays a somewhat sleazy New York publicist who goes into a phone booth to call his would be mistress. The phone rings, he picks it up, and there is a voice on the other end who claims to be a sniper who will kill him if he does not essentially confess to all his sins to the people he has sinned. Essentially it is an old fashioned morality play. The trouble with that is that the screenwriter wants Farrell's character to be sympathetic to the audience, and for that reason he isn't actually all that bad. He is trying to make the Katie Holmes character his mistress, but he hasn't actually succeeded in doing so yet. And yes, he is a publicist, which means he lies to everyone all day long, but although publcists are scumbags, they are only minor league scumbags in the overall scheme of things. (And I think there are few men who could resist Holmes' brown eyes, which are I think the most beautiful in the world). Therefore, it seems somehow a bit excessive to single him out for this sort of treatment. On the other hand, if the voice on the other and of the phone represents God, then I suppose everyone has to atone for their sins.

However, as a simple thriller the film works. The idea is a good one, even if screenwriter Larry Cohen could not come up with an ending that was not Hollywood cliche. The film is only 81 minutes long, which is the shortest live action movie I have seen in a while. However, this is the right length. (It is also another way in which the movie is old fashioned. We get lots of long and bloated 130 minute movies, but 81 minutes used to be pretty typical, especially in the days of the double feature). Joel Schumacher directs pretty well, although he rather unnecessarily fills the film with rap music, split screens, and weird camera angles. Simple may have been better, but he does okay. The script was originally intended for Hitchcock and I would love to see his version of the film. (It was a perfect script for him).

As I mentioned before, the film was just made in time. It has to find excuses for people to even use phone booths, and is almost apologetic about this. In ten years it probably won't work any more.

However, the film is also old fashioned in one more immediate and perhaps slightly more grating way. The film was finsihed about two years ago, and then was held up for a while because the film-makers (accurately) thought that Colin Farrell was about to become a star, and decided to wait until a couple of his higher profile films (most notably Spielberg's Minority Report were released. The film was then scheduled for release late last year, but it was then delayed due to the Washington sniper. In the film there is a large billboard in Times Square that we keep saying. It says "NetZero. Free internet access for ever". In the film's world, we are still in the tech bubble. That now seems many universes away.

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