I'm going to try to see a theatrical release tomorrow -- either Y Tu Mamá También
or Trouble Every Day
, probably the former. In the meantime, I thought I'd post on a made-for-cable movie. I hope they're eligible for discussion on Milk Plus
I'm not fond of talking heads, so I usually don't like movies or plays structured around an interview. I'd rather watch people interact without that kind of artifice. I think that's why I never saw the play The Laramie Project
when it was here in New York; but I caught the HBO version tonight and was surprised by how effectively the different interviews were woven together to tell a story. Overall, I found it pretty moving, but I had some problems with it. It seemed a little slick to me. If it was going for a documentary style, it didn't quite cut it. Could it have been helped in this regard if it had starred less recognizable faces? Maybe, but that shouldn't be necessary. If a performance is good enough, you should forget that you're watching Eleanor from The Practice
-- and Camryn Manheim was good in this. Dylan Baker, Amy Madigan, Steve Buscemi, Jeremy Davies were all very good -- especially Buscemi who seemed so Wyoming to me (I've spent some time there -- and not at Jackson Hole) and didn't resemble any other character I've ever seen him play. On the other hand, it was impossible to watch Joshua Jackson without thinking "Pacey." The other performances that rang false to me (and kept taking me out of the movie) were those by the interviewers, who were portrayed mostly by actors I'm not familiar with. The notable exception to this was Clea Duvall, who was surprisingly good. She has one of the best scenes in the movies when she's conflicted by the need to remain objective when collecting the interviews and wanting to lash out in response to something outrageous said to her.
The scope of the movie is pretty broad for something that's little more than an hour and half. It touches on a lot of topics in addition to homophobia and hate crimes, including the effect of media scrutiny on a small town, capital punishment, journalistic objectivity. It makes effective points about some and gives others short shrift. But the use of actual interviews is a lot more powerful than phony, didactic speeches.
There are a few perfect moments in the film: the Clea Duvall scene I mentioned, Dylan Baker breaking down before reading a statement from Shepard's mother, Laura Linney as a pretty, well-spoken monster (really scary), the story one guy tells about watching a parade from two corner windows. And the range of characters is impressive. In addition to the extreme bigots you'd expect, and their counterparts, there's also the hospital spokeman (played by Baker), one of the movie's most sympathetic figures, yet, who admits to disapproving of homosexuality.
The ending angered me. I don't consider what follows to be a spoiler; copywright might call it a "thematic spoiler," but I am about to discuss the end.
Buscemi is such a good actor that he almost pulls it off. But I find it very hard to believe that as he hung from a fence, tortured and dying, Matthew Shepard was thinking about the sparkling lights of Laramie.
Overall, I thought its virtues far exceeded its flaws.