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Alexandra Maria Lara
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Alan Rudolph is a poor man's Robert Altman with a Henry Jaglom production value–and yet he manages to entice excellent talent to his projects. His films have never fared well at the box office, and only two (Mrs. Parker and the follow-up Afterglow) received much critical acclaim. So how he managed to spend eight million dollars on this mess is anyone's guess. It was obviously shot (predominantly) in a single location, and the wardrobe and set decoration is hardly extravagant to have merited high budgeting. While likely scripted, it has all the discipline of a free community improv class. It's perhaps apt that a movie about masturbation should prove so masturbatory in its inception: the cast are allowed free reign to over-reach in almost every scene. There is no sense that the characters are true to the time frame portrayed on screen, and yet it is not completely pointless. Some of the improvisations work, and most don't, but there is some comedy to be had in the less over-wrought interactions. When it tries, it fails, but when it fails it sometimes triumphs. I only wish there had been more happy accidents–like the camera being in the right place to capitalize on the focus of the scene. It is sadly rarely so.
For a much better take on a similar subject see Joaquin Oristrell's Unconscious, instead. For a better use of an ensemble cast in a barely scripted acting exercise, see Nicholas Roeg's Insignificance. The only honest performance is Neve Campbell's, and the only subtlety is that of Terrence Howard. Nick Nolte seems like he's acting in two different movies, Alan Cumming deserves more camera time, and Jeremy Davies is completely against type.
Rudolph's greatest success is that this film released in 2002 looks like a 1970s European skin flic. I am probably over-crediting him, here. But the film has its moments. It's probably best to run in the background while you do something else and cross it off your list.
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