This story is about the bonding of a cynical, mean-spirited old man and a sweet, generous youth who impact so much on each others’ emotions, that they both finally become whole. At least, that’s the story the filmmakers wanted to tell, and I know this because the actors recite sign-posted dialogue at every turn. Worse still, the characters lurch so erratically from one behavior to another that I got a little travel sick about half-way through. If there had been any kind of conflict I’d have had to run to the bathroom but, as the director/writer thinks drama needs only the token odd flare up, I managed to stay steady.
The paths of Jacques and Lucas cross in a hospital room, where they both lay damaged by the hand life has dealt them. Their exchanges are brief and weightless, so it’s surprising when Jacques seeks out his young friend and moves him into his home, which is an apartment above his run down New York bar. Welcoming a stranger into your home is an extremely kind act, but the audience is then fed contrary information with Jacques’ rude, aggressive behavior. This abrupt turn-around is accompanied by a diatribe by Jacques of his Scrooge-like views, delivered at length to an expressionless Lucas.
In case you haven’t quite got the picture, Jacques is Basil Fawlty, without the bubbling repression, rapier sarcasm or funny walk and without those, all you’re left with is a droning tyrant. So, to counteract the tyrant, Lucas plays the gentle, child-like innocent, but to such an extent that he becomes a non-personality and his appearance become a yawn.
Many of the moments in this film feel staged, one of which is when five men pile into the bar, offer Jacques cash to buy his business, give the grumpy old geezer time to spell out an essential-to-the-plot fact, and then they all pile out. Another is when a French air hostess wafts in, claims to be homeless, acts virtuous one minute and whore-like the next, depending on the dialogue Jacques delivers at the time. Lucas’ character arc is driven by his relationship with this bi-polar mademoiselle but, as their super-quick marriage is solely so she can get herself a green card, it’s puzzling why the writer included this plot line at all.
There is a very, very big question as to why Jacques decides to ‘adopt’ Lucas in the first place, and which is the entire basis of the film. The reason we are given is that Jacques wants to keep his legacy alive, but as all he’s got is a crummy New York bar, this motivation doesn’t quite work. Also, Jacques is on his fifth heart attack, so why is he having his epiphany now? To make things even more uninteresting, there is a total absence of any back story or insight into any of the characters and all we know is what tell us.
The errors in this script are blatant and. even with a comparatively small budget of $4M, it’s hard to understand why the production company didn’t shell out a couple of hundred bucks to get some decent notes on the screenplay. Hollywood is knee-deep in script analysts, script doctors, editors and any kind of story consultant you want, so why didn’t someone pick up the phone? Could it be the director/writer had creative control and he decided his script was perfect? If so, there is only one response. Oh dear me.
I’m not going to comment on the directing because it doesn’t really matter, although I suppose if you’re bored enough it does pass the time to study the technicalities. But if we’re going to do that we might as well go back to silent movies, which might sound like a terrible idea to you, but having just sat through ninety five minutes of drivel, I disagree.