Tuesday, March 25, 2014



We finished filming my big tap finale for Flying Down to Reno today. It ends with my doing a wonderful series of combinations down the tarmac into the sunset as the hero and heroine embrace and find true love in the foreground; the rest of the cast forms a human pyramid of praise and thanksgiving with little Hallie Eisenberg waving a large American flag from the top. I truly think it's some of my finest work to date and I smell an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress next year. We have still to finish Alanis Morisette's number, Jagged Little Jesus ; she's playing the nun who ministers to the dying child, played by Hallie. I was a little concerned when the prop men poured Pepsi Cola into the tykes IV tubing but they assured me it was perfectly safe. It apparently has something to do with product placement.

Margo Channing has a couple of solo lines in the big Hallie/Alanis scene. Someone, however, switched her prop martinis for the real thing and by the time the cameras were set for her close ups, she couldn't do anything other than mumble 'Here’s to the ladies who lunch' and then she collapsed back in her seat and could not be roused. I, of course, immediately volunteered to take her bits. I am always the professional and the show must go on. She’s going to be a bit surprised by the final cut of the film as I think her moments will all end up in the postproduction circular file. She’ll have to ply her dubious talents elsewhere for a comeback.

Having had a satisfying day on the set, I was ready for a film starring a modern empowered woman. On my return to Chateau Maine, I put on a cerise silk kimono, grabbed a small plate of ladyfingers from the kitchen and settled into a comfortable fainting couch in my home theater and began flicking the remote. In my channel surfing, I spotted a film starring Linda Fiorentino, one of my favorites of the new breed of strong female leads and settled in with Jade , the film she made with David Caruso in 1995. What a mistake. Despite a powerhouse cast, William Friedkin as director and a Joe Eszterhas script, the film is an utter disaster. It also helps explain the disappearance of David Caruso, its erstwhile star, from the Hollywood radar screen. The man has the on screen charisma of a hibernating vole.

The film is another in Eszterhas's interchangeable erotic thriller repertoire and bears more than a passing resemblance to Jagged Edge and Basic Instinct . Once again, violent murder and kinky sex take place amongst the San Francisco Bay area upper crust. This time, the victim is a well-heeled gentleman and art collector who is done in by a ceremonial hatchet from his collection of exotic objets . Assistant DA Dave Corelli (Caruso) gets the call while attending a gala Black and White Ball with his pals, wealthy attorney Matt Gavin (Chazz Palmintieri) and his wife Trina (Fiorentino), a psychologist. The three are long time friends and Dave has long carried a torch for Trina. It turns out that Trina had visited the murdered man only that afternoon and her prints are on the hatchet. As Corelli continues to investigate, he discovers that the victim maintained his finances and social position through an elaborate blackmail scheme. He introduced wealthy, powerful men to ladies of easy virtue and secretly recorded the trysts, using the photos and tapes to blackmail the men. The most popular of his courtesans is the elusive Jade of the title, who may or may not be Trina on her nights off. You never know about those psychologists.

Eszterhas's script is a strictly by the numbers affair which seems to have been assembled from a kit. The biggest problem was that there was zero narrative flow behind the set pieces. At the end of the film, I couldn't tell who was doing what to whom or why and, when the villain is finally revealed, I didn't care. Motives are obscure. Relationships are obtuse. There seems to be no reason for the film other than to have a frame on which to hang some kinky sex games, some chase scenes, and some rather nasty violent deaths. Friedkin, who has been a brilliant director in his day, still has some great camera moves and the ability to make his locations look lush and lovely. An early scene in the Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Garden is exquisitely photographed. Unfortunately, he is undone by both the editing, which seems to have been done by mix-master (only half the pieces seem to be there and they're in the wrong place and the wrong order) and by the silly script.

The script falls back on San Francisco clichés. We have several gratuitous car chases a la Bullitt , which exist only to have cars fly off of Russian Hill and which make zero geographical sense. We also have a bunch of Chinatown scenes where, you guessed it, they're in the midst of one of those parades with the firecrackers and the girls with the glockenspiels that only happen in movies filmed in San Francisco. When the car chase and the parade come together, things really get silly. The cars are trapped in the parade and moving at a crawl but chaser Caruso never thinks to get out of his car and pursue on foot, even though traffic's crawling along at 5 mph due to parade floats and the odd Chinese dragon.

With the exception of Caruso, who resembles a bewildered carrot more than anything else, the cast is fine. Fiorentino and Palminteri look great together and have a real fire. I hope someone thinks to pair them up again in a better project. There are also some terrific performers in supporting parts including stage actress Donna Murphy as Caruso's partner (she gets all the good one liners and she relishes them), Kevin Tighe as his boss, and Michael Biehn and Richard Crenna as investigators.

I suppose this is better than reruns of My Mother, The Car or the Flowbee infomercial but I would still recommend a good book over wasting time with this film.

Gratuitous kinky sex videotapes. Gratuitous Chinese opera performance. Gratuitous unexplained cuff link clue. Gratuitous Angie Everheart. Gratuitous butt plug references. Gratuitous gubernatorial hijinks. Gratuitous peeping Tom neighbor.

No comments:

Post a Comment