An English Professor tries to deal with his wife leaving him, the arrival of his editor who has been waiting for his book for seven years, and the various problems that his friends and associates involve him in.
On the last evening of a convention two seen-it-all industrial lubricant salesmen and a youngster from the research department gather in the hotel's hospitality suite to host a delegates party. The main aim is to get the business of one particular big fish. When it becomes apparent that it is the lad who has developed a direct line to the guy, his strong religious beliefs bring him into sharp conflict with his older and more cynical colleagues. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
This refreshingly intelligent film delivers raw intellectual power by retaining the look and feel of the play from which it was adapted. The use of a single set and just three actors throws the emphasis entirely upon the in-depth character studies, the incisive dialogue and the actors' outstanding performances. It draws us into the lives of three seemingly ordinary guys at a convention whose interaction broaches questions that are nothing short of an examination of the meaning of life. The dialogue unabashedly strips the characters naked to show the ironies and hypocrisies inherent in their strategies for establishing meaning in the machinations of mundane lives. The laser sharp exchanges slash relentlessly at the souls of each, leaving none of the characters intact by the end of the film. And with each thrust, they drive another introspective probe deep into the psyche of the viewer.
The presentation reminded me a little of `Glengarry Glen Ross' with its theatrical feel and deep reflective tone, although this film was more confronting and less darkly despondent. Roger Roeff's penetrating script approaches the meaninglessness of life from three unique perspectives. We have Larry (Kevin Spacey) the seemingly superficial cynic who has far greater depth than he lets on and who uses his sardonic persona as a defense mechanism to hide his own fears. Phil (Danny DeVito) is the pragmatic but jaded salesman who is great at putting things in perspective for everyone but himself. Bob is the naïve young Christian zealot whose antidote for the futility of life is a strong dose of Jesus.
The juxtaposition of Larry the cynic and Bob the idealist makes for numerous thought provoking exchanges, especially when we learn that Phil (our mediator and voice of reason) is drowning in his own soul-searching quest for meaning. The story poses more questions than it does answers, and sputters a bit at the end, but overall it accomplishes its purpose of making the viewer ponder profundities easily ignored while in the pursuit of everyday priorities.
The acting was brilliant. Kevin Spacey gave what I thought was the best performance of his career. This was so much more interesting and meaty a character than he played in `American Beauty' that Spacey easily eclipsed even that outstanding performance. Larry was such a dynamic and complex character, that Spacey was able to open up the throttle and show us the full measure of his considerable talents. Likewise, Danny DeVito delivered a personal best in a serious dramatic role. His portrayal of the mediator who was trying to keep the peace while he was disintegrating inside was subtle and powerful. Peter Facinelli was also near perfect with an utterly believable and sincere performance as the pure hearted whelp whose heart was suffused with the Lord.
I rated this film a 9/10, but it requires a certain type of viewer to enjoy it. It is a very intellectual film, which precludes it from having much mass appeal. Action junkies will be bored to tears. However, for those who have a philosophical bent, this film will be highly satisfying.
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