*** Official "THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE" Review Thread

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Patrick Sun, Feb 21, 2003.

  1. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    I saw it, and I sort of put the whole capital punishment side of out of my mind (as far as my opinion on the matter),and just watched it as a "who-dun-it" and from that standpoint, I think it fails to really stir up the pot or create any emotional attachment to any of the characters.

    I can't really find too much fault in the acting (the main draw for me to go see it), but the screenplay just lays there waiting for it own form of execution.

    I give it 2.5 stars, or a grade of C+ for its predictableness.
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "The Life of David Gale". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.



    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Ryan FB

    Ryan FB Second Unit

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    Ugh. I just got back from watching this and I could not believe how bad it was. Yes, that's completely aside from any philosophical stance on the death penalty*. This movie redefines the word "terrible" on almost every level. The dialog, the characters, the plot, the editing...everything was awful. This movie wouldn't even be worth a rental, much less theater admission or even 1-130 minutes of your life. How in the hell they got Kevin Spacey, one of my favorite actors, dragged into this utterly God-awful movie is beyond me. Kate Winslet is terrible and unbelievable. The entire thing from start to finish, is absolutely the most predictable, contrived, banal, hackneyed, trite, and condescending piece of crap I've ever watched. It drives home it's theme with all the subtlety of beating you over the head with a sledgehammer. I can't really go into detail about how truly bad this movie is without revealing plot details, but then again if you haven't figured out the ending before the characters have you need to seriously look into the possibility that you're a total moron.

    I would definitely give this a 0/10. This movie doesn't even deserve an F for effort. Avoid at all costs. [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I think I'm going to go watch Se7en and American Beauty now in order to cleanse...

    *NOTE TO THOSE WHO MIGHT POUNCE ON MY REVIEW SAYING I'M A FROTHING AT THE MOUTH SUPPORTER OF THE DEATH PENALTY: I'm not.
     
  4. Evan Case

    Evan Case Screenwriter

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    Wrote this anyway for a Writing the Review course I'm taking, so I might as well post it here. That it's for a class is also why it's a little formal than most of my HTF contributions.

    Alan Parker’s The Life of David Gale opens with a distant shot of a car sputtering to a stop on a lonely Texas road; smoke pouring from under its hood. The driver drops a few f-bombs before leaving the automobile to its fate. It is impossible to imagine a more apt metaphor for the film itself.

    The driver in this scene is news a magazine reporter, Bitsey Bloom. She is played by the lovely and talented Kate Winslet who, like her well-respected co-stars, Kevin Spacey and Laura Linney, should have left this burning hulk of a movie to die alone and unwept for in some cinematic ditch. Surely there were other projects they could have collaborated on that would have had more respect for the audience. Like, say, Snow Dogs 2: Electric Boogaloo.

    The plot follows Bitsey to Austin, where former philosophy professor and death penalty activist David Gale (a sleepy-eyed Spacey), in an ironic twist of fate, now awaits his own death, condemned for the rape and murder of fellow professor and activist, Constance Hallaway (Linney, who again disappears into her character as well as any actress working). Gale, apparently impressed with Bitsey’s journalistic integrity (she spent time in jail rather than reveal sources for her kiddie porn article), feels that she is the only reporter qualified to hear his side of the story, which he presents via extended flashbacks. In between interviews, Bitsey tracks down evidence in the case and fends off a few advances from Zack, the horny magazine intern (Gabriel Mann) sent to assist her. This “interview, then investigate” plot structure is similar to Silence of the Lambs, though the result surely isn’t.

    Apparently not one for subtlety, Parker begins each day with a portentous and loud subtitle: DAY ONE; DAY TWO; etc. While this is helpful for those who may have dozed off, it’s more than a little overdone for those in the audience who can count on one hand and tell the difference between sunlight and moonlight (and know what order they come in). Flashbacks to Gale’s teaching days are even more ridiculous, with illegible one-word “profundities” intercut with wild-angled and spinning shots of campus life. So much for artfully easing us back into the past.

    First-time screenwriter (never would have guessed…) Charles Randolph joins Parker in the ranks of the subtle-deficient, but at least he gives you some variety for your money. There’s the unsubtlety of the cliché: could the sinister-looking man in the cowboy hat and pick-up truck that keeps following the heroes possibly know the truth of the case? There’s also the unsubtlety of the saccharine: might the pancakes with whipped cream, syrup, strawberries, and chocolate shavings Gale’s son wants near the beginning be used as his last meal (this isn’t a spoiler—after all, has there been a death row movie that hasn’t shown the last supper, regardless of whether or not the condemned is saved?)? Lastly, there’s also the unsubtlety of the purely stupid kind: we’ve already seen the car break down in the first shot (which chronologically takes place on DAY FOUR), so do we really need at least a half-dozen moments of foreshadowing where a character mentions how poorly the car seems to be running? One reference might be fine, but with Randolph if one is good, six must be six times as good.

    Kate Winslet does her best, but she’s saddled with a character of limited appeal and the propensity for out-of-the-blue conclusion jumping. For much of the film, Bitsey’s either bitching out Zack or forced to sit by while Gale tells his tale. When she does get the opportunity to play something emotionally, Winslet generally nails it. Her reaction at first seeing Hallaway’s murder tape (wherein she slowly asphyxiates from the plastic bag secured to her head) is probably the film’s best scene, when removed from the context the conclusion gives it. On the other hand, not even Winslet can make comprehensible the scene where Bitsey decides that the best way to determine how Constance died would be to secure a plastic bag over her own head for three minutes. Does the brain become better at solving mysteries when oxygen isn’t fed to it? Must be, because Bitsey makes her startling revelation only after nearly dying.

    Kevin Spacey has had some low points since his Lester Burnham days (such as Pay it Forward and K-PAX), and this is right down there with them. Part of this is due to Gale. But for some Lacan jokes (an oxymoron?) near the beginning, love for his son, and his work with Death Alert (insert personal beliefs on the death penalty here to determine whether this is good or bad), Gale doesn’t do much that’s particularly admirable. He gets himself blackmailed by having sex with a student, and then spends most of the flashbacks in an inebriated state. Spacey’s rambling, drunken, “Socrates was ugly…” monologue will not be seen at his lifetime achievement Academy Award ceremony (or even his Golden Globe one). His present DAY scenes carry little to no emotion, though at least its somewhat explained by his line, which ties into his earlier Lacan class, “There comes a moment when your mind outlives its obsessions.” He’s tired of life, it seems. Though if he doesn’t care, why should we?

    Laura Linney joins Winslet as the only cast member who needn’t be ashamed of her work in the film. Chameleon-like as ever, she’s nearly unrecognizable as Constance Hallaway. Within minutes, she ceases to be Linney and becomes the fictional character. If she keeps this up (and starts playing some sociopaths), she might become the female Gary Oldman. She also benefits from having the most sympathetic character, fully dedicated to her causes and, to tug the heartstrings a bit, diagnosed with cancer. There is a nice scene where Constance and Gale, each racked by illness and personal demons, consummate their relationship.

    The rest of the cast is as one-note as their clichéd characters. The Bitsey-hungry intern, the laconic cowboy with a secret, the blackmailing student, the redneck-in-a-tie lawyer, and the execution-mad governor are little more than sketches. Like the DAY subtitles, they were probably kept simple enough so that those who fell asleep would still know the characters’ motives when they woke up. Parker and Randolph sure are considerate!

    The Life of David Gale is bad for reasons far removed from the politics of the death penalty. In fact, it wouldn’t be that difficult for either side to find material supporting them within the film. No, it is bad for the reasons listed above, of which many more examples can be given, and it’s worse for many reasons that can’t be, without ruining the film. Suffice to say, the final moments pretty much negate all reason for Bitsey to have been involved in the first place, which in turn renders all his flashbacks to her and all her investigations (and the “tension” built therein) basically invalid. With a plot rendered wholly unnecessary, all that is left are the ideas. Parker and Randolph would have done better to have just given out bulleted sheets of paper listing their ideas on capital punishment. Better that than scattered about a two-hour carcass of a film that has just a few decent moments anyway.

    In Robert Altman’s The Player there is a screening of a film called Habeas Corpus, wherein warden Bruce Willis and his trusty shotgun save the innocent Julia Roberts from the gas chamber in the nick of time (“Traffic was a bitch,” Bruce quips, immortally). Though Altman intended this as a parody, it ends up actually being a more legitimate examination of the death penalty than The Life of David Gale, which needless to say is not too good for the latter.


    (And yes, this paper was the reason I posted my earlier question about The Player. [​IMG])

    Evan

    *edited to reflect the difference between Super Bowl XI and American Beauty
     
  5. Evan Case

    Evan Case Screenwriter

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    Whoops on the Lester Hayes. Burnham is what I meant, of course.

    I don't consider the Linney thing a spoiler as it's given within the first 15 minutes or so.

    As far as I know, people are usually on Death Row for killing someone who's identity is known, not someone who'll be revealed as the Mystery Victim! during their last minutes on earth. [​IMG]

    Evan
     

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