The lives of two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages, a registered sex offender, and a disgraced ex-police officer intersect as they struggle to resist their vulnerabilities and temptations in suburban Connecticut.
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Hours" comes a story that chronicles a dozen years in the lives of two best friends who couldn't be more different. From suburban Cleveland in... See full summary »
A man coping with the institutionalization of his wife because of Alzheimer's disease faces an epiphany when she transfers her affections to another man, Aubrey, a wheelchair-bound mute who also is a patient at the nursing home.
A powerful and seductive Hollywood mogul convinces an impoverished West Hollywood writer, whose lover has recently died of AIDS, to sell his autobiographical screenplay for big bucks. The writer, Robert, knows he'll have to make major changes in the script (like changing the sex of the dying lover). During the rewrite, the producer, Jeffrey, takes Robert under his wing, introducing him to his wife Elaine, herself a closet screenwriter. Jeffrey approaches Robert for sex and Elaine approaches Robert out of curiosity about his sex life in grief. The entangled triangle of relationships threatens more than the completion of a film script. Written by
Suppose you had intimate knowledge about someone, and that someone did not know that you knew. How would you use that knowledge? Or would you? This issue is the undercurrent that carries the film's plot, like a fast moving stream, over a cliff, to a swirling, uncontrollable emotional vortex that changes people's lives forever.
Set in modern Los Angeles, a grieving gay screenwriter named Robert (Peter Sarsgaard) meets with Jeffrey (Campbell Scott), a wealthy film producer, to talk about Robert's script "The Dying Gaul", a tribute to his deceased lover and soul mate. Jeffrey invites Robert to his mansion by the ocean to meet his wife Elaine (Patricia Clarkson), who reads Robert's script and loves it. Over time, Robert and Elaine become friends, which sets up a triangular relationship that careens out of control when the anonymity of internet chat rooms provides cover for the discovery of secrets.
Artsy in tone and philosophy, the film exudes New Age dialogue, with conversation about Buddhist Karma, "the middle way", enlightenment, and deadly plant roots. The film's production design is chic. And while the color cinematography is mostly conventional, sometimes it is beautifully stylistic. I really liked those stark human silhouettes against that orange screen. The film's score, which connotes New Age spiritualism, is terrific.
Acting of the three leads is quite good. Patricia Clarkson is great as she sits in front of a computer monitor and, without speaking, displays myriad emotions through her facial expressions alone.
The chat room scenes are creative and emotionally potent, amid magnified keyboard clicking sounds. The back and forth exchange here is unusual, and striking in that it is meaningless when taken out of context, but highly enlightening when considered in relation to the film's plot, as this sample shows: "Hello"; "I hear clicking"; "I'm still here"; "Are you still there?"; "Yes"; "You sound really distracted"; "Yeah today"; "When?" "I'm sorry"; "No, I'm all yours"; "Are mine what?"; "No"; "Yes"; "Meaning?"; "I'm all yours now".
The film's screenplay does contain a rather obvious plot hole. And a couple of scenes involving Robert's son and former wife are too tangential to the story's trajectory. But these are minor issues.
"The Dying Gaul" may seem artistically or philosophically pretentious to some viewers. But I really liked it. Quite aside from the wonderful performances and the chic production values, the film's story has thematic depth, a quality lacking in most mainstream Hollywood films.
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