All About The Language
|Starring:||William H. Macy, Denise Richards, Mena Suvari, Julia Stiles, Joe Mantegna, Ling Bai, and, yes, Jeffrey Combs|
David Mamet is about words. Sure there are visuals in the films he’s done, and they’re important, but what makes Mamet great is his language. Nobody in the entire world writes profanity better than him, and that includes people like David Milch, who’s use of the word “cock——” in the TV series “Deadwood” is actually poetic at times. A dozen years ago, Mamet did a small play about the use and misuse of elightenment, and Stuart Gordon adapted it for the screen (Mamet being busy with a TV series and all). It’s about an everyman named Edmond Burke (William H. Macy), who after a visit to a fortune teller (Frances Bay), decides to leave his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon), and go forth into the world of 1980s New York and hunt for truth, justice and sex.
The themes of the film are threefold: enlightenment, degradation and the high cost of hookers. Ed goes from place to place, starting off in a bar where a businessman (Joe Mantegna) complains to him in the most graphic terms his views on race relations, and gives him the location of a gentleman’s club where he can start on his tour of the wonderful world of sex. Only when he gets there, he discovers that the hostess (Denise Richards) wants a hundred bucks just to sit next to him, something he can’t afford, so he goes to the next rung down, where one of the hookers (Mena Suvari) negotiates in vain the price of a trick. Sex for pay is an expensive business, and he leaves, to the next rung down the sexual ladder, only to get ripped off again by an exotic dancer (Bai Ling), who won’t give change, gets beaten up and robbed by Dule Hill and Russell Hornsby, is treated like dirt gets a weapon.
Getting laid at last with a woman named Glenna (Julia Stiles) he finds enlightenment, and then everything turns bad. Exactly what Mamet was trying to say here is a bit obscure, we’ve got lots of words here, foul language at its most poetic, even beautiful, but the philosophy and allegory presented don’t really seem to get anywhere important.
The acting is terrific, Macy, who’s been with Mamet for longer than almost anyone, gives one of the best performances of his life, and while everyone else in the film has nothing more than a cameo, Mamet’s words and Stuart Gordon’s direction get the best out of each and everyone of the couple of dozen speaking roles.
This is a very bleak movie, but a worthwhile one. As there’s always at least one obscure independent in the annual Oscar race, the whole thing might as well begin here.