Guilt and fear kills a man many times before his actual death. Its not easy to live with guilt, and its even more difficult to live under the shadow of fear that people may get to know the real you. There have been times when we may have done something illegal/unethical/immoral and we wish no one gets to know of it. We tend to hide things more out of fear of losing what we have and add to that, disrepute that it may bring.
As a common person if we feel so insecure about the skeletons in our cupboard, imagine what a celebrity must be going through. Someone who is always in the public gaze, who thrives on fans generosity, who loves the limelight, who makes a living out of being a darling of the crowds; what would happen if such a person were to be caught in an act of indiscretion?
The movie starts off exactly from this point. It can widely be divided into two occupations: writers and celebrities. Two writers, one aspiring to be a journalist and the other a journalist, want to capture the lives of two celebrities; but they are separated by a chasm of 15 years. While the writers in both cases change, the celebrities whom they want to write about are the same.
Lanny and Vince are a celebrity duo, a comedy team, who perform live. In 1957, both of them perform at a telethon in Miami to raise money for the cause of polio. After the successful show, they fly back to their hotel suite in Atlantic City. But soon after their arrival, a dead body is found in the bath-tub of their hotel suite. The dead body is that of Maureen, a stewardess in the Miami hotel where the duo had stayed.
15 years later, in 1972, a writer named Karen sets out to ghost-write an autobiography for Vince. But everything comes unstuck when the telethon is mentioned. Vince asks Karen to totally ignore Maureen and that incident. Or if it has to be mentioned, it could be a passing remark; more as an afterthought.
So much is at stake, the price-tag which the publishing house is paying Vince for the autobiography, the popularity and image of the stars and the love and respect that they have earned. Vince cannot let Karen undo all that he has built over his lifetime. Karen’s struggle to get to the truth is what the movie is about.
The movie has quite a few interesting twists that keep you engaged. One of them being that, while in Miami, Maureen, an aspiring journo, had requested the duo for an interview which she wished to publish it in the magazine of which she was an editor. What happened after that, nobody knows whether she ever got to interview the stars. Another absorbing scene was the chance meeting of Karen and Lanny in a flight where the fidgety journo spontaneously impersonates her friend to keep her identity secret and extract some information from Lanny.
The non-linear time-frame of the movie makes it tough as well as interesting to watch. The movie keeps switching between 1957 and 1972. The inseparable duo, back in 1957, are together no more. Both leading their separate lives, past the glory days. What transpired between the two? Why did they part ways? Why and how was Maureen killed?
The murder mystery is the only thing what keeps us interested. And that is a big negative because we stop feeling for Lanny and Vince altogether. The movie should have tried to capture what the two celebrities were going through, how their lives had been affected by the incident. They are leading a guilty life, guarding a secret about which no one should know. But what is that secret? Of course, spelling out the secret could mean ignominy and allegations of murder, but isn’t it better to get it out than live in fear! The movie is as much about Maureen & Karen, as it is about Lanny & Vince.
Kevin Bacon as Lanny Morris is just about ok. I don’t know why, but all through the telethon I kept imagining Jim Carey in his role. Somehow, the comical scenes were not done well by Bacon; he was good with the drama though. Colin Firth as Vince Collins wasn’t anything worth mentioning. He played the character flat-out and nonchalantly. He did not suit the part, I felt. Alison Lohman as Karen was also unconvincing. There was no sense of fear or apprehension in her acting. In a tight intense movie, which is largely carried on her shoulder because she is trying to unravel the mystery, the actress has got to be good in emotional scenes, but Alison was disappointing.
The movie is worth watching only for the directorial aspect of Atom Egoyan. He also contributed in the screenplay department, but since the movie was being made from a previously published book of the same name authored by Rupert Holmes, I am sure not much must’ve changed in scripting. The movie was structured well and setup was good, but due to a weak script most of it comes undone.
The movie had tremendous scope to show both the sides of celebrity status, one where Lanny & Vince are mobbed by people during their hey-days and other where nobody cares where the duo are and what they are upto. How life changes after the spotlight moves to the next rising stars and how celebrities go into hibernation could have been captured. There was enough potential for some great comic moments during the telethon, but it was not well-scripted. There were abrupt bursts of laughter and some silly gags which did not make me laught at all. Also, the camaraderie that Lanny and Vince shared, was also pretty dreary. I couldn’t feel the bonding, it seemed forced. And my biggest grouse against the movie was the frontal nudity. I felt there was no reason for such explicit scenes, it did not bring out either intensity or aggression to the movie. Overall, watch the movie for Egoyan and his narrative, really good.