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Rated [R], 90 minutes
Starring James Marsden, Lena Headey and Norman Reedus
Screenplay by Gregory Poirier and Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Davis Guggenheim


Cranky has seen it before . . . when an kidlet audience heartily laughs at "serious" (and non-comedic) lines coming out of a character's mouth and still walks out saying they "liked" the film, that means I'm way too old to be doing this job. That's as good a way as any to analyze Gossip, which brings to the big screen a visual style that crosses teevee's NYPD Blue and Miami Vice and takes a story grounded in reality and shoots it off into the absurd like a skyrocket on the Fourth of July. That it has a 1950s-ish stylish look to it can be attributed to producer Joel Schumacher and that it looks like telly is no diss on episodic NYPD Blue director Davis Guggenheim. What it is is what it is, and that is nonsense.

Gossip is the story of students Derrick (James Marsden), Jones (Lena Headey) and Travis (Norman Reedus) who, as part of their end of semester final project for Professor Goodwin (Eric Bogosian), start a rumor about a classmate to see where it leads. The rumor is that the very rich and very pretty Naomi (Kate Hudson), whose rep for saying "no" to all the boys on campus is the stuff of legend, got insanely drunk at a party and put out for current would-be beau, coincidentally named Beau (Joshua Jackson). The rumor, as rumors are wont to do, runs speedily out of control and the next thing you know, Naomi has filed date rape charges against Beau. And people start dying.

If Gossip had stayed on that course, it might have turned into something interesting. As it throws gimmick and plot twist at you, again and again, it quickly loses any sense of rhyme or reason. One of the principal trio has old baggage re: Naomi to resolve. One may be a psychotic sociopath. One is flat-out called a liar by the police detective (Sharon Lawrence) investigating the "rape". One flat out lies to the cop (Edward James Olmos) that shows up at the door. And all but one may be scamming everyone else. That's five characterizations for three characters and we haven't even begun to delve into the backgrounds of Naomi and Beau . . .

What it all means is that, if you're still around nineteen or so, you might buy into the big surprise plot twist and story revelations that mark the conclusion of this piece o' junk (pretty much the reactions of the audience I sat with). If so, answer the following question before you dissmail Cranky: Why possible motivation did [you-know-who #1] have for setting up [you-know-who #2] (said motivation must lie before the rumor at the center of the piece starts getting spread, else any answer you can come up with makes no sense whatsoever). While the kidlets are working on that, let's talk about why films that try to look like NYPD Blue don't seem to work on teevee, despite inflated budgets that allow for the breakage of every piece of glass in sight.

It's 'cuz we see it every week on NYPD Blue which, even on its bad weeks, still manages to cram a full story into less than an hour. Given the luxury of a larger time frame writers Gregory Poirier and Theresa Rebeck, basically, thought way too much and delivered a story that collapses under the weight of its own cleverness (and explaining that means giving away the end of this story, which we don't do). Personally, we don't like walking out of a flick thinking "huh?" and we sure don't like it when a director and/or writer falls back on visual gimmicks like a lingering camera, as if to scream "BAD GUY! HERE'S THE BAD GUY!" And to tell you that that lingering camera bit is just a deception laid on top of a deception would mean we're breaking the rule about not tipping the end. Sort of.

Oops. No loss.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Gossip, he would have paid...


Pretty actors and half a story. Wait and rent.

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