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  Edmond Man Behaving Badly
Year: 2005
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars: William H. Macy, Rebecca Pidgeon, Joe Mantegna, Denise Richards, Bai Ling, Dulé Hill, Debi Mazar, Mena Suvari, Jeffrey Combs, George Wendt, Julia Stiles, Bokeem Woodbine, Jack Wallace, Frances Bay, Matt Landers, Marcus Thomas, Lionel Mark Smith
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Edmond (William H. Macy) is leaving work one evening when the receptionist informs him his meeting on Monday has been pushed back to 1:15, and he takes this as yet another example of life kicking him when he's down. But on the way home he notices the shop of a fortune teller (Frances Bay) and seeing it bears the street number 115, he ventures inside and has his tarot read by her. Now he starts to see significance in what he had not seen before, and wonders if he can change his life, beginning with his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon). As they get dressed to go out that evening, he bluntly tells her that he is going out and will not be returning. Ever. She throws him out, furious...

Edmond began life as a stage play of the early nineteen-eighties, Reagan era, where audiences were suitably taken aback at its criticism of the entitlement of the American white middle class and how at the centre of that lay a grim heart of racism and hatred, justified by empty reasoning. But when its author David Mamet sought to adapt it for a film version under the direction of Stuart Gordon, a man best known for his horror movies, he was not the same liberal Mamet who had penned that play in the spirit of provocation, now he was a deeply conservative writer whose dialogue would seem to appeal to those who would take the characters' prejudices at face value throughout.

Indeed, there was a suspicion that Mamet was channelling a thrill at using racist language and acts of violence, and in turn sexist language and misogynistic violence, that would largely be appreciated by those who wanted to hear unacceptable words and sentiments spoken in the movies. However, would it not be better to trust the filmmakers that there was a strong element of satire here, a sense of allowing Edmond to be hoist to his own petard when he takes out his frustrations by lapsing into crime? Certainly there was a very strong cast, though most of them appeared in one or two scenes, as if getting off on the chance to be in a Mamet adaptation: he was still a respected playwright.

Among those who Edmond meets on his long, dark night of the soul were such stars as Mamet regular (as Macy was) Joe Mantegna, the businessman he has a drink with in a bar and who plants the thought in his mind that getting laid will make him feel a lot better. This led to other stars in roles representing the sex industry, like Denise Richards in a strip club who is the first of many to try and fleece our antihero, and Mena Suvari as a prostitute who finds this latest john just does not have enough money on him to justify his presence in this "gentleman’s club". The need for cash payment in return for sexual satisfaction was weirdly bolstered when the woman who goes to bed with Edmond for free, willingly, was a waitress played by Julia Stiles who does not emerge from the encounter unscathed by the man's mania.

That was an issue, as Edmond doesn't seem the type to be duped by the promise of an orgasm with a stranger, paid or not, for the solution to his problems, for instance he is too savvy not to see through how much cash you have to part with for a cheap thrill (which is anything but cheap), and that lack of a convincing premise did harm the film later on when he descends into a figurative Hell. Not that Macy was bad, far from it, the issue was more with the screenplay, also by Mamet, which was more enthusiastic about racist and woman-hating attacks than it was about delving into a psychology that came across as contrived rather than the insight into the male psyche he had shown in a classic work like Glengarry Glen Ross, for example. It held your interest if you liked to see people behaving badly, but by the time Bokeem Woodbine showed up philosophising about dogs, the main thing you could agree on was that often people barely understand their own motivations, no matter how many hollow justifications they can invent. Music by Bobby Johnston.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Stuart Gordon  (1947 - 2020)

American director of horror and sci-fi, who made his debut in 1985 with Re-Animator, following 15 years working in theatre in Chicago. This HP Lovecraft adaptation was a spectacular mix of chills, black comedy and inventive splatter, but while it still remains his best film, the likes of From Beyond, Dolls, The Pit and the Pendulum, Space Truckers and Dagon do have their moments. He followed these with the David Mamet adaptation Edmond and true crime-inspired Stuck. Gordon also wrote the story for the box office smash Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

 
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