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Starring Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey,
Chazz Palminteri, Anna Paquin and Meg Ryan
Screenplay by David Rabe, based on his stageplay
Directed by Antony Drazan
Website: flf.com/hurlyburly/

IN SHORT:  Ten Years Too Late. (122 minutes, Rated R)

As always, Cranky makes no comparison to the Source Material which was a legendary stage experience way back in my pre-Crankyhood. I'm pleased to report that creator David Rabe has stayed with the project through the screenplay. I'm not pleased to report that it still looks like a stageplay.

As a portrait of the coke-fueled world of entertainment, in this case movies or TV I think, HurlyBurly is a pretty accurate representation of those of us who were just under the movers and shakers level. We put together projects which had the sparkle of legitimacy (regardless of how big a load they were) and we all had plans for the big score of a project which would punt us up into the Big League. More honestly, we made too much money and snorted or smoked or drank most of it away. Not to mention our total disdain for the opposite sex, since the pleasures of the flesh were always way to available for a toot or a toke or a ticket to a high-powered rock 'n' roll show, which is where Cranky fit in. I'm not proud of that part of my life, but it puts a lot of things into perspective as we ponder the depths the characters in HurlyBurly fall to. It's also indicative of how much things have changed since the film's setting in the 80s, to wit . . .

Eddie (Sean Penn) is a high powered film casting director, single, with his separated from wife and kid business partner Mickey (Kevin Spacey) taking up the spare room. Mickey is, relative to everyone else in the HurlyBurly universe, the straight one. Eddie lives on "Bolivian Health Food" as he puts it. Long white lines on the mirror or little white dots poured on to the side of his hand. Coke to bring him up. Thai stick to keep him down. Agents like Artie (Garry Shandling) to shuffle in underage toys like Donna (Anna Paquin) for sexual diversions. Friends like actor friend Phil (Chazz Palminteri) who doesn't know it, but adds color and brutality to Eddie's blizzard of a life.

Into this boys club, in which relationships are usually referred to in the third person, are the two recurring female characters, a stripper named Bonnie (Meg Ryan) and Darlene (Robin Wright Penn) who is essentially involved with Eddie, but has enough of a jones for the fast lane that Mickey may somehow be involved in her life, too. Eddie stays straight and sober for his "love," but only when she's in town.

The language that David Rabe wrote, and adapted for the screen, is razor sharp. The characters vary wildly, all depending on the how intoxicated they are or aren't. It is funny and it is brutal and even a death doesn't help to sober anyone up or change any lifestyle. That's the way it was back in the 80s. That's why HurlyBurly feels like a period piece. Cranky's gut feeling, having lived a bit of that life, is that as an incisive satiric condemnation of the life, the play was dead on in its time frame. If the movie adaptation had come a decade back, (when the play was relatively new,) this review would have been a rave for the same reason. Now, it's a bitter pill of nostalgia. For those that didn't live it, HurlyBurly is a sorry portrait of pathetic losers who dreamed of being Masters of the Universe, in the Tom Wolfe mode. That's no diss on the performances, all of which are top notch. But as I've written in many other reviews during this time of Oscar®-wannabe, the ratings get a helluva lot stricter.

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

$4.00

Pay Per View level. Sean Penn and Chazz Palminteri take the ring on the mens' side of the equation. Meg Ryan continues her quest to shake off the cutesy perky image and does so very well. Doesn't make her any less cute... even after being tossed out of a moving car. <sigh>

Any other time of the year, the rating would probably have come in at about $5.50, with the caveat that the film would still find its niche among the film students and art house crowd.


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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is Copyright © 1995  -  2015   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.