Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Martin Donovan’s Collaborator
you are ever taken hostage, start doing acting exercises. Anyone that annoying is sure to be quickly
released. It does not quite work that
way for snobby leftwing playwright Robert Longfellow, but it is debatable just
how much danger his captor really represents in Martin Donovan’s directorial
debut and star vehicle, Collaborator (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York at the IFC Center.
from the critical drubbing unleashed on his latest play (the appropriately
pretentious sounding American Excursion),
Longfellow left New York and his ever patient wife to visit his aging
mother. As luck would have it, he is
also able to re-connect with his former romantic interest, Hollywood actress
Emma Stiles. His childhood acquaintance still
living across the street also wants to hang.
One of those right-wing ex-cons, Gus Williams has not made good. In trouble with the law again, Williams shows
up with a gun and a shopping bag full of beers.
Thus begins Longfellow’s hostage ordeal.
might have been Hal Hartley’s bro-muse in all those great 1990’s indies, but as
a director-screenwriter he does not exhibit a natural talent for pacing or
characterization. While he deserves credit
for his relatively sympathetic treatment of Williams, we never really believe the
hostage-taker would pull the trigger, at least with Longfellow on the receiving
end. As a result, instead of a taut
cat-and-mouse game, the deliberately stagey and static Collaborator feels more like forty-plus minutes of extended
endgame, grinding along laboriously.
lieu of plot progression, Longfellow engages Williams in a series of actors’
improvs designed to show the intellectual superiority of a New York elitist to
the bitter red-stater. Yet, the truth is
both characters are just talking in clichés when they debate hot-button issues,
such as the Viet Nam War. This is all
supposed to reveal the fundamental essences of their psyches, but it really
just leaves viewers shrugging, so what then?
Donovan’s emotional frozen Longfellow, as well as David Morse’s wounded,
anti-social Williams are only too familiar, following predictable development
arcs. We have seen similar from both of
them before. However, Olivia Williams
has some intriguing moments as Stiles.
Ironically in Collaborator,
the movie star is the most human character of the lot.
While the premise of Collaborator had potential, the execution never really clicks. There are some well turned moments here and
there, especially from Ms. Williams, but it is clearly the product of an
insular environment, much to its detriment.
Highly skippable, Collaborator opens
this Friday (7/6) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Martin Donovan