ON HAVING CASTMATES
In praise of Bijan Stephen et al.; & who cares about Hollywood lawyers and war mongers?
The cast of Matthew Gasda’s Dimes Square at the end of the play’s Soho run, photographed by Elias Altman. Tonight there is a performance at 9pm on the Lower East Side, and tickets are still available. The rest of the weekend run is sold out, and there is a wrap party in the West Village on Monday night.
On Saturday afternoon, as is my habit now and again, I watched a couple of quite possibly lousy, or at least trashy, movies before going to a dinner party, or whatever I did that night. The first, Georgetown (2019), was disappointing if not exactly bad. Christoph Waltz, Annette Bening, and Vanessa Redgrave all give sharp performances in their roles as impish conman, concerned daughter, and lonely widow, respectively. But the scenario—a foreign flimflam artist marrying an elderly doyenne to exploit her in the short term and take her for her fortune, a plan complicated by his murdering her prematurely in a fit of rage—is pathetic rather than tragic, and Waltz, who also directs doesn’t quite go all the way into black comedy. A long stretch where his character is claiming to be operating as a freelance diplomat trying to arrange for peace deals among factions in Iraq is played straight, as if, maybe he is. In fact (and the movie is based in fact, he’s working at a motel in Florida. As with most movies set in Washington, there is a straight-faced respectability that pretends to idealism and runs cover for cynicism, power-mongering, and greed. This holds for the good ones—All the President’s Men, Burn after Reading—and any number of so-so thrillers or dramas about the president. One of the reasons No Way Out, the 1987 remake of The Big Clock (1948), is inferior to its source material is that transferring the action from the offices of a magazine publisher to the Pentagon, where the evil of its murderous villain defense secretary, played by Gene Hackman, is a little too obvious. Charles Laughton’s parody Henry Luce is both a killer and a clown. Ray Milland’s editor hero is a cynical drunk with a good heart, whereas Kevin Costner’s military attache is something like Oliver North if he was just a nice young guy in a uniform and not the point man for an illegal war. Maybe I’m just more sympathetic to magazine hacks than to war-mongers.