Review Date: February 27, 2000
Director: Curtis Hanson
Writer: Steve Kloves
Producers: Curtis Hanson, Scott Rudin
Robert Downey Jr.
A teacher whose career as a writer peaked with one successful novel suddenly falls upon a couple of extremely unlucky days. First, his wife leaves him. Then, his mistress tells him that she's pregnant. And to top all that off, his eccentric editor comes to town looking for his latest novel, a book which he seems to have been working on forever. All the while, the man also has to deal with a brooding, young student of his who's loaded with potential but very difficult to get a handle on.
Inspirational. It's been quite some time that a movie was actually able to make me feel refreshed after a viewing, or simply nudge me into revisiting my own life under a different source of light, but this movie did just that. A great film featuring some notable performances all around, an excellent script which manages to simultaneously entertain and motivate those who fear that their best days are far behind them and enough interesting characters, plot twists and surprisingly, laughs, to gently embrace any willing audience member. I'll be honest and tell you that I was barely intrigued by this film's trailer, and basically just expected to be bored with the life and times of a hack writer currently undergoing a mid-life crisis, but boy, was I ever wrong! This movie didn't bore me for one second, in fact, it only took a few minutes for it to wrap me entirely within its cozy shell of wintertime and real-life characters. Their problems seemed genuine, their reactions all engaging, their emotions running deep and leading to more questions, a wonderful film to decipher and enjoy.
But besides its inspirational undertow, which drew fuel from the sparkplug talent of a younger writer opening the eyes of an older, worn man, it was this film's natural sense of irony and consistent humor that made me love it so much more. Excellent performances from Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire also helped elevate this movie to its superior level, as well as the solid supporting cast led by the always strange Robert Downey Jr. (whose career seems to have taken off ever since he went to jail), Katie Holmes and Frances McDormand. Easily one of Michael's least stock and sincerely layered performances in years. Of course, it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that the director of the film is also to be given a lot of credit for having the capacity to bring this interesting small tale to the big screen, elevating the level of his cast's talent and giving the film an absorbing feel and satisfying finale. Please don't go see this movie expecting to be bombarded by inspiration, because this film is more likely to invigorate if you enjoy watching good movies about intriguing, real people with various vices, simply trying to live through their difficult moments with a general sense of aloofness and determination.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian