Recently, construction on my home forced me to spend a few days at my 21 year old daughter's apartment which she shares with her equally 21 year old roommate. Hmmm... Reflectively, that's a pretty good premise for a light comedy. Or, a gritty reality show. I'm sure I'll see it next year, after somebody reads this and works it into a million dollars I won't share, but you saw it here first, folks! Moving on. This brief sojourn afforded me several nights alone, left to shift for myself. Evidently, 21 year old girls go out EVERY night. Naturally, I thought to while away some time with a fine feature film.
Enter culture shock. It seems that young women of this age possess very little of what their parents would consider watchable, let alone entertaining. However, sandwiched between classic Disney films, Bum Fights and a preponderance of films starring Orlando Bloom and Silent Bob, I found "Gossip".
Deciding to give it a try, I spent the next hour and a half or so with a growing feeling of nausea. This is a very disturbing film. The premise seems harmless enough. Three college students (James Marsden, Lena Hedley, Norman Reedus) decide to start an ugly rumor on campus for a "class project". They claim that a "friend", Beau (Joshua Jackson) had sexual intercourse with an unconscious date, Naomi (Kate Hudson) a notoriously virginal girl. Vicious as this seems, it remains relatively harmless until well meaning interference by other students convinces Naomi she has been "date raped", and this baseless, thoughtless lie becomes a criminal matter.
As a parent, this is a Class A nightmare. I STILL worry, much to my daughter's disgust. But, I also have a son, and the hellish circumstances faced by innocent Beau and his family resonates as well.
The performances of all of the young up and coming actors, none of whom, except Hudson, I have seen before, is earnest and intense, especially as the situation spirals out of control. Edward James Olmos is, as always, utterly convincing as the detective assigned to the case.
What I find so disturbing about the film is that it fails to make the point that gossip and rumors like these are not only ugly, they can be utterly destructive. Even if the subject is cleared in the end, the psychological damage to him, the girl, and both of their families is ongoing. I happen to be a big believer in justice, and I would have liked to have seen the three students responsible seriously punished, criminal records of their own being the least of the consequences.
I am also disturbed by the opinions of others regarding this film. Comments that solely praise the beauty of an actress or the excellent directing, and say NOTHING about the subject. In fact, one went so far as to state that this is just the way things are on a college campus. How sad is that? How far has our society's moral standards fallen as to brush this off as nothing unusual? This "Life Sucks.. So What?" attitude is more frightening than the threat of nuclear war. Dress it up any way you want, "Gossip" is a revisiting of the Salem Witch Trials. The general consensus that no one seems to care, or feel that the instigators deserve vilification, at the least, both sickens and scares the hell out of me.
Aside from that, there were serious reality flaws in the script. Forensic evidence, for one, or the lack of even more than a brief mention of it. The "evil" of Marsden's Derek revealed as if it were justification, both for the initial lie and the subsequent actions of the other two conspirators. The quick, and almost too pat ending.
This film had an opportunity to make a powerful statement about the effect these kinds of vicious head games have on the innocent. A good film can go far in the changing of perceptions, attitudes, even actions of those who watch it. Unfortunately, "Gossip" fails in its chance. I give this film an overall six because of the dedication of the cast. Other than that, I cannot recommend this film as anything other than a sad, sad commentary on the lack of moral standards of the up and coming generation. God help us if they don't wake up.
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