The gay screenwriter Robert, who is grieving the recent loss of his lover, writes a screenplay based on his biography and tries to sell it to the Hollywood producer Jeffrey. He offers one million dollars for his work, provided changes in the story replacing the dying man per a woman to make a commercial film. Jeffrey shows the screenplay to his wife Elaine, who loves to write and to plant flowers, and she is also delighted with the story. Robert works introducing the required modifications and Jeffrey, who is bisexual, has an affair with him. Meanwhile Elaine finds the gay website where Robert writes and she creates a fake profile to have conversation with him pretending that she is his deceased lover. Soon she learns the affair of her husband and she decides to leave him. But when the gay Robert discovers the truth, he has a breakdown and takes vengeance for Elaine with tragic consequences.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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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