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Hurlyburly: Much Ado About No One


Sean Penn was recently quoted as saying: "Movies don't have to be entertaining." It's not certain if he was referring to his current film, but it certainly applies. Hurlyburly is one of the least entertaining movies of the year.

To be fair, it's not his fault nor that of his highly talented co-stars. Screenwriter David Rabe, working from his 1984 acclaimed play, and director Anthony Drazen teamed up for this two-hour physical and emotional assault on women.

The movie revolves around casting director partners and roommates, Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey, their friends (Chazz Palminteri and Garry Shandling) and the women in their lives (girlfriend Robin Wright, hooker Meg Ryan, and teenage runaway Anna Paquin).

Since it's the Eighties, this group is nose-deep into cocaine, alcohol and marijuana -- literally and simultaneously. Everyone is angry about something.

The movie supposedly chronicles the lows to which men and women will sink in order to make it in Hollywood. But hey, we get that after the first 15 minutes. What worked on stage becomes a monotonous, excruciating bore on screen. And there is almost two hours more of this to go.

Each Hurlyburly co-star gets his or her moment to shine. Penn and Spacey, in particular, deliver speech upon speech upon speech. The little fun to be found in this movie resides in their very different approaches to their roles. Penn barks loud but can't help exposing his vulnerable side. Spacey plays Mr. Cool, but he keeps you on edge, knowing he could explode anytime.

In the end, Hurlyburly is much ado about nothing and no one. Some bad things happen to some pretty weak people, but who cares?

Joan Fuchsman

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New View

I went to see this movie purely for the fact that Kevin Spacey was in it. I've seen some bad movies because of my fascination with certain actors. 

I was not entertained by HurlyBurly. Spending several hours in the company of whiney men who insist on reading between the lines of every conversation does not qualify as entertainment. But I did enjoy the actors' performances 

Sean Penn as Eddie perfectly channels his Eighties persona. Gary Shandling as Artie is Gary Shandling, but he fit the part. It was refreshing to see Chazz Palmentieri play Eddie's "puppy," the ultra-indecisive Phil. 

Then there was Kevin Spacey as Mickey, the coolest of the four guys. Mickey comes the closest to having a conscience. This doesn't say much, considering Mickey induces a woman to perform oral sex on a potential client in the back seat of a moving car while her daughter sits in the front. Mickey looked like he felt bad, but after too much cocaine you giggle at anything. 

This movie is all that was self-indulgent and seamy about Hollywood in the Eighties. As a character study, HurlyBurly makes a fascinating actor's movie. Maybe the actors in the world will enjoy it. I did.

Jenny Buehler