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  Big Empty, The Nothing In ParticularBuy this film here.
Year: 2003
Director: Steve Anderson
Stars: Jon Favreau, Rachael Leigh Cook, Sean Bean, Daryl Hannah, Joey Lauren Adams, Adam Beach, Kelsey Grammer, Gary Farmer, Jon Gries, Brent Briscoe, Bud Cort, Melora Walters
Genre: Drama, Weirdo
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: John Person (Jon Favreau) - not his real name - is an out of work actor in Los Angeles. A few years ago he had starred in his own sitcom, his first big break which turned out to be his only big break, and now he is fretting over his publicity photographs in his apartment, where he has recently had to sell most of the furniture. His neighbour across the hall, Grace (Joey Lauren Adams), is sympathetic, but his other neighbour, the strange Neely (Bud Cort) is bothering him, and when the man knocks on John's door, he wants rid of him as soon as possible. But Neely has a deal for him, a deal which could pay off John's debts...

This odd tale of lives apparently going nowhere was scripted by the first time director, Steve Anderson, and being a story of random weirdness, the laziest comparison to make is to the work of the king of surreal cinema, David Lynch. But it's closer to a Twin Peaks television series, without the horrific scenes, kind of quirky, rather than the darker works of Lynch's films, with its oddball characters and deadpan humour. However, the unmistakably American setting, a desert smalltown in this case, and the reluctance to explain anything are present and correct here.

What Neely convinces John to do is head out to the Californian desert, the town of Baker to be exact, with a blue suitcase and deliver it to a man only known by the name Cowboy (who doesn't appear until over halfway into the film, but when he does he's played by Sean Bean). In return he'll receive thousands of dollars, so John, needing the cash, agrees, thinking it sounds simple enough. However, there are, predictably, complications when he keeps missing the Cowboy and has to hang around the place, which boasts the world's largest thermometer, becoming embroiled with the antics of the locals.

The roles are well cast, mostly actors wanting something out of the usual on their C.V.s. Favreau is a solidly ordinary presence, an everyman who knows as little about what is supposed to be happening as we, the audience, do. Around him are the laconic owner of the bar, Daryl Hannah, her adopted daughter Ruthie (Rachael Leigh Cook) who coquettishly leads John on, and her slightly psychotic boyfriend (Adam Beach) who is pathologically jealous about her. That's not to mention the mysterious Indian (Gary Farmer) and the F.B.I. agent (Kelsey Grammer) who is convinced John has something to do with the removal of Neely's head.

The Big Empty casually piles on the incidents, referencing serial killers and aliens, but where this all leads lives up to its title. The only thing John gets out of his experience is the money, he has no spiritual awakening that Ruthie enjoys, and at the end is none the wiser (but with bluer eyes). The baking sun provides an attractively orange daytime, and the nighttime in the desert is a deep blue (is blue significant?), and there's the always-compelling sight of figures in a vast landscape to hold the eye, but it doesn't amount to much more than John being needlessly involved in an alien abduction plot. Although there's nothing exactly like it, the film still seems clich├ęd, perhaps because it takes it's own weirdness for granted instead of taking it somewhere provocative. It's fine if you like the actors, and they're a likeable bunch, but it'll leave you unsatisfied. Music by Brian Tyler.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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