Bradley Whitford

Get Out (2017, Jordan Peele)

What’s particularly stunning about Get Out is how nimble director (and writer) Peele gets with the protagonist, Daniel Kaluuya, and the narrative distance to him. Peele’s very patient with his cuts. Lots of long shots, establishing what Kaluuya is seeing (as well as the audience); the audience has no point of view outside Kaluuya. Then the film gets to the third act and Peele completely changes up the point of view. He sort of changes protagonists for ten minutes or so, long enough to ratch up some more suspense; it also serves to open up Get Out. Peele doesn’t save the reveal for the last moments, he lets poor Kaluuya live through it, because–while the film’s suspense horror and Kaluuya sort of a damoiseau at times, he’s still the protagonist. And it’s kind of an action movie. Kind of.

It’s also a terrifying social commentary comedy.

Kaluuya and girlfriend Allison Williams are in the country visiting her family. He’s meeting them for the first time. He’s Black, she’s white. She assures him it won’t be an issue with her progressive family; Obama-loving dad Bradley Whitford, psychiatrist mom Catherine Keener, and creep brother Caleb Landry Jones. Whitford bonds with Kaluuya thanks to his social awareness, Keener’s accepting but doesn’t like Kaluuya smoking and wants to hypnotize it out of him, Jones wants to fight him. Oh, and then it turns out the family has some extremely docile and socially awkward Black servants, who (rightfully) weird out Kaluuya.

But he’s got Williams and she’s on his side and, as things get weirder and weirder, even she starts to think maybe they ought to head home. Of course, they’re her family so she’s not on Kaluuya’s side when he’s just been hypnotized against his will by mom Keener or fondled by party guests (turns out Williams forget she was bringing him home on a big party weekend), it takes until the only other black guy (Lakeith Stanfield) at the party–not a servant, anyway–kind of flips out and attacks Kaluuya.

The film runs an hour and forty-five minutes. The party probably doesn’t finish up until seventy minutes in, with Kaluuya unintentionally discovering the secrets of his visit after it’s over. Get Out takes place over five days at most, with most of the runtime dedicated to the first two days, which is Kaluuya and Williams’s arrival and then the party the next day. Those first two days of present action are creepy, disturbing–the movie opens with a Black man, lost in suburbia, attacked so Peele gets the audience on edge before his leading man even appears on screen–and they’re also funny, they’re also (socially) gross. Kaluuya gives a fantastic performance; he holds it all together.

And then, all of a sudden, the movie shifts entirely over to his best friend and dog sitter, TSA agent extraordinaire Lil Rel Howery, trying to figure out what’s going on with Kaluuya’s weird weekend.

Taking the film away from Kaluuya and letting Howery do a bunch of exposition does a few things. Like I said before, it ratchets up the tension. It also has some humorous relief valves, because even though the audience knows some of what’s going on, Howery’s investigation doesn’t have any of those details. It just perturbs on Howery’s–sometimes hilarious–concern. Including a fun cameo from Erika Alexander as a missing persons detective.

The conclusion mixes suspense, horror, sci-fi, action, and comedy. Peele knows how to pace all the different genres. Get Out’s not a kitchen sink, all those different genre approaches work in conjunction. He and editor Gregory Plotkin do a magnificent job with the film’s cutting; Peele and cinematographer Toby Oliver always have these precise shots and Plotkin cuts them just right. Michael Abels’s score is fantastic (and essential) too.

All of the acting is good. Even Keener, who’s the least effective in the film–she’s always something of a creep. Whitford can be terrifying, but he also can be really funny. Peele’s direction of the supporting cast is phenomenal; he can follow them around for five minutes, with them running the scenes (giving Kaluuya a tour, for example), but then it turns out he’s just been showcasing Kaluuya’s perception of them. Get Out’s exceptionally well-made.

Besides Kaluuya, Williams and Howery give the best performances. Once the party hits and there are all sorts of new people coming on screen, getting introduced, Whitford, Keener, and (thankfully because he’s such an unpleasant character) Jones become background. It’s just Kaluuya, experiencing all these weird, indescribably suspicious white people, and then checking in with Williams about it.

Peele’s ambitions with the film are matter-of-fact. He’s making a suspense thriller with some humor and some social commentary. The social commentary he does make is more potentially disturbing than anything the film actually discusses. There’s no obvious, “aha they’re racist” moment. It’s far more disturbing, even at the connotation level where Peele keeps it throughout. It’s unspoken observations, sometimes passed between Kaluuya and Williams–which makes the unspoken observations passed between Kaluuya and Whitford even crazier after the reveal. It’s delicate. Get Out is a very, very delicate and precise film.

Even in its action movie conclusion, where Peele decides to reward the audience since it turns out he doesn’t have a particularly deep message with the narrative. Get Out is, while disturbing and scary and grody, entertainment. It’s superior entertainment, masterfully produced, and often exquisitely acted.

Even if Keener and Jones do utterly lack subtext; they’re not bad, their characters aren’t thin, their performances are just obvious. Kaluuya, Williams, and Howery easily make up for them.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jordan Peele; director of photography, Toby Oliver; edited by Gregory Plotkin; music by Michael Abels; production designer, Rusty Smith; produced by Jason Blum, Sean McKittrick, and Peele; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Daniel Kaluuya (Chris), Allison Williams (Rose), Lil Rel Howery (Rod), Bradley Whitford (Dean), Catherine Keener (Missy), Caleb Landry Jones (Jeremy), Betty Gabriel (Georgina), Marcus Henderson (Walter), Lakeith Stanfield (Logan), Stephen Root (Jim Hudson), and Erika Alexander (Detective Latoya).


A Perfect World (1993, Clint Eastwood)

A Perfect World runs almost two hours and twenty minutes (it does with end credits). The last act of the film is a seventeen or so minute showdown in real time. Until that point in the film, John Lee Hancock’s script flirts with occasional sequences in real time, but there’s a lot of summary, a lot of missed time. The present action of the film is a couple days–Kevin Costner has broken out of jail, ends up with an eight year-old boy as a hostage (T.J. Lowther), and is trying to get out of Texas. Clint Eastwood, acting, plays the Texas Ranger after him. There’s a great attention to detail, particularly for the time period, and with the filmmaking; A Perfect World is a great example of a film being good while still boring.

Hancock’s script desperately wants to compare and contrast the various characters–Eastwood had run ins with younger Costner, Costner had a bad dad, Lowther has a bad dad, it goes on and on. Laura Dern is around to be sexually threatened–the film takes place in 1963, after all–and to counsel Eastwood. Unfortunately, most of that counseling comes when Eastwood’s Rangers are literally broken down off the highway.

Meanwhile, Costner and Lowther have a rather touching adventure. There’s great period music, rich performances from just about anyone–even evil escaped convict Keith Szarabajka is pretty good and he’s not doing much of anything. Leo Burmester doesn’t get enough to do, however. Once things come together for the inevitable showdown, which Eastwood and Hancock don’t set up well enough–one would think Eastwood’s chasing Costner across a county, not the state–there get to be hints of what A Perfect World could have done. It just takes too long to get there and not through interesting enough adventures.

Costner’s too much of an enigma to be the lead, Lowther could be but he isn’t. Same goes for Dern (or Eastwood even). It isn’t a matter of Hancock’s script being all over the place, it’s about the script not being there enough and Eastwood being able to cover it as a director. Jack N. Green’s photography is gorgeous, Joel Cox and Ron Spang’s editing is spry; A Perfect World is a spectacularly well-made, often spectacularly acted film, just not spectacular overall. But it’s still really darn good.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Clint Eastwood; written by John Lee Hancock; director of photography, Jack N. Green; edited by Joel Cox and Ron Spang; music by Lennie Niehaus; production designer, Henry Bumstead; produced by Eastwood, Mark Johnson and David Valdes; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kevin Costner (Butch), T.J. Lowther (Phillip), Clint Eastwood (Red Garnett), Laura Dern (Sally Gerber), Keith Szarabajka (Terry Pugh), Bradley Whitford (Bobby Lee), Leo Burmester (Tom Adler) and Jennifer Griffin (Gladys Perry).


Agent Carter (2013, Louis D’Esposito)

Agent Carter is a terrible execution of a nice idea. The short is supposed to follow-up on Hayley Atwell’s character after the Captain America movie. A post-script for a supporting character… love that idea.

Sadly, Carter wastes most of its runtime. The first minute is a recap from the movie, the end credits are three and a half minutes or so (of a fourteen minute short)… Atwell eventually plays second fiddle to stunt casted Bradley Whitford. Whitford plays her sexist boss (it’s the forties after all).

There are other returning Captain America cast members, but director D’Esposito and writer Eric Pearson save them for more stunt moments at the end.

The idea Carter ends on–what’s next for Atwell and her sidekicks–would make a fun movie. Except this short’s it. There’s just the promise next time it’d better.

It’s a shame too. Atwell does well with nothing.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Louis D’Esposito; written by Eric Pearson; director of photography, Gabriel Beristain; edited by Peter S. Eliot; music by Christopher Lennertz; produced by Kevin Feige; released by Disney Home Video.

Starring Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Bradley Whitford (Agent Flynn), Tim Trobec (Hefty Guard) and Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark).


Walk and Talk the Vote (2012, Michael Mayers)

Walk and Talk the Vote reunites the “West Wing” cast–including Martin Sheen as President Bartlet, which I wasn’t expecting, but a lot of it feels like it could have just been impersonators.

The only time the commercial–for Mary McCormack’s sister, Bridget Mary McCormack–gets any energy is when characters are actually talking to each other and the actors are visibly getting in rhythm with each other. It happens especially with Allison Janney and Bradley Whitford and a little with Sheen and Lily Tomlin. Poor Richard Schiff, who doesn’t talk with anyone so much as at them, looks a little lost.

Also lost are Joshua Malina and Janel Moloney. They literally disappear after their initial appearance.

It’s a neat idea and not a bad commercial to encourage people to vote the non-partisan portion of the ballot, but John Cockrell’s script is really forced.

Whitford and Janney save it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Mayers; screenplay by John Cockrell, inspired by a television show created by Aaron Sorkin; director of photography, Mayers; edited by Greg Arata; music by Kyle Newmaster; produced by Mary McCormack and Michael Morris.

Starring Allison Janney (C.J. Cregg), Janel Moloney (Donna Moss), Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler), Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman), Mary McCormack (Kate Harper), Joshua Malina (Will Bailey), Melissa Fitzgerald (Carol Fitzpatrick), Lily Tomlin (Deborah Fiderer) and Martin Sheen as the President.


Adventures in Babysitting (1987, Chris Columbus)

If it weren’t for the acting, Adventures in Babysitting would probably be more interesting as a cultural document than anything else. The way the film treats race is probably worth a couple sociology articles. Black people aren’t scary as much as foreign beyond belief. Space aliens would have more in common with the suburban kids than the room of black people they find themselves in a room with. Working class whites, actually, are far more scary.

So I guess, as a Chicagoland filmmaker, Chris Columbus is less racist than mentor John Hughes. Spielberg must have rubbed off on Columbus a little.

The film’s finely acted. Elisabeth Shue’s great in the lead. As her charges, Maia Brewton, Keith Coogan and Anthony Rapp are all good. Brewton and Coogan are sort of best (Coogan has some rather difficult scenes). Calvin Levels is excellent as the car thief who helps them out, as is John Ford Noonan as the first scary guy they meet. George Newbern and Bradley Whitford are both good as Shue’s romantic interests, though Whitford’s got more to do.

In the film’s silliest role, Vincent D’Onofrio has a hard time not laughing.

Penelope Ann Miller starts out strong, but the film eventually requires everyone to laugh at her and dismiss her as silly. Otherwise, she has some of the strongest line deliveries.

John Davis Chandler is weak as the lame villain.

Columbus does a better job with actors than composing shots.

Babysitting‘s moderately amusing, its parts stronger than the whole.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Columbus; written by David Simkins; director of photography, Ric Waite; edited by Fredric Steinkamp and William Steinkamp; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Todd Hallowell; produced by Debra Hill and Lynda Obst; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Elisabeth Shue (Chris Parker), Maia Brewton (Sara Anderson), Keith Coogan (Brad Anderson), Anthony Rapp (Daryl Coopersmith), Calvin Levels (Joe Gipp), Vincent D’Onofrio (Dawson), Penelope Ann Miller (Brenda), George Newbern (Dan Lynch), John Ford Noonan (Handsome John Pruitt), Bradley Whitford (Mike Todwell), Ron Canada (Graydon) and John Davis Chandler (Bleak).


Presumed Innocent (1990, Alan J. Pakula)

I could, but will not, get into the idea Presumed Innocent is what studios were making as popular summer entertainment in the nineties. It’s simply to depressing to start that discussion.

Instead, I’ll start with the film’s strengths. Even though the second half is very strong–how did Raul Julia not get nominated for this one (or Bonnie Bedelia for that matter)–Presumed Innocent is strongest at the beginning, before the trial. The reason is numbers–the second half has, principally, star Harrison Ford, Julia, Bedelia, Paul Winfield and a little John Spencer and a glimpse of Bradley Whitford.

The first half has Ford, Bedelia, Spencer with a lot more screen time and then Brian Dennehy in a great performance. As the star, Ford is somehow perfect. He’s this leading man surrounded by character actors, but his character is right for Ford. Seeing him opposite the other actors, the approach is unquestionable.

Of course, it’s Alan J. Pakula directing with Frank Pierson helping him with the script so there’s always going to be a certain baseline of quality. Pakula resists any glamorized composition; the film looks as grimy and downtrodden–with a couple notable exceptions, Ford and Bedelia’s home in the suburbs and Dennehy’s office after he’s betrayed Ford.

The problem is mostly too much story in not enough running time. The beginning is either too long or too short, same as the middle, same as the end.

And also Greta Scacchi. She’s not in it much, but she’s lousy.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Alan J. Pakula; screenplay by Frank Pierson and Pakula, based on the novel by Scott Turow; director of photography, Gordon Willis; edited by Evan A. Lottman; music by John Williams; production designer, George Jenkins; produced by Sydney Pollack and Mark Rosenberg; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Harrison Ford (Rusty Sabich), Brian Dennehy (Raymond Horgan), Raul Julia (Sandy Stern), Bonnie Bedelia (Barbara Sabich), Paul Winfield (Judge Larren Lyttle), Greta Scacchi (Carolyn Polhemus), John Spencer (Lipranzer), Joe Grifasi (Tommy Molto), Tom Mardirosian (Nico Della Guardia), Sab Shimono (‘Painless’ Kumagai) and Bradley Whitford (Jamie Kemp).


Kate & Leopold (2001, James Mangold)

I unintentionally watched the Roger Ebert cut of Kate & Leopold. I originally saw it at a sneak preview with the plot intact. Ebert saw it around the same time and threatened to complain or whatever if they didn’t cut it.

It works all right, but the original cut is available on DVD. I thought that version is what I’d be watching.

But it wasn’t.

It’s a perfectly fine romantic comedy.

Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber are way too good for it. Schreiber’s performance is fantastic, of course. Jackman’s continuing his development into this romantic leading man–that role never really took off for him. His most popular role, for female audiences, is Wolverine. That Wolverine movie, over half the audience opening weekend was female.

It seems kind of natural to stick him in a Meg Ryan movie . . . I guess. Except this one’s a post-Russell Crowe Ryan movie, after she’d lost her luster.

It’s amazing how little work goes into making her a character, other than her being Meg Ryan. It’s upsetting–comparing Innerspace Ryan to this film–it’s this watered down version.

Mangold does a good job directing. His script’s long, with too many characters.

All the acting’s good except Bradley Whitford, which is because they cast him as a nasty Adventures in Babysitting Bradley Whitford role . . . only after he was Josh Lyman Bradley Whitford, which doesn’t make any sense.

Breckin Meyer’s good in it.

It’s fine. One should, if possible, see the director’s cut.

But it is long.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by James Mangold; screenplay by Mangold and Steven Rogers, based on a story by Rogers; director of photography, Stuart Dryburgh; edited by David Brenner; music by Rolfe Kent; production designer, Mark Friedberg; produced by Cathy Konrad; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Meg Ryan (Kate McKay), Hugh Jackman (Leopold), Liev Schrieber (Stuart Besser), Breckin Meyer (Charlie McKay), Natasha Lyonne (Darci), Bradley Whitford (J.J. Camden), Paxton Whitehead (Uncle Millard), Spalding Gray (Dr. Geisler) and Philip Bosco (Otis).


Robocop 3 (1993, Fred Dekker)

It’s actually not hard to find nice things to say about Robocop 3. There’re about fifteen nice seconds of Phil Tippett stop-motion, Dekker’s got a neat way of shooting cars to give a sense of realism (his cinematographer, Gary B. Kibbe, did a lot of Carpenter’s films)… umm… wait, I’m sure I can find a third. It was cool seeing Jeff Garlin in a movie? Does that one count?

Robocop 3 is an unmitigated disaster, made on the cheap–made a few years later, if Orion Pictures had maintained solvency, it would have just been a direct-to-video entry–the only amusing way to pass a viewing experience is to rate the actors’ sense of embarrassment. Worst has to be Nancy Allen, who had so much vested interest in the sequel’s artistic import, she demanded to be killed off. There are a few “reasons” Peter Weller didn’t return–the costume, filming conflicts–but maybe he just read the script. As a PG-13 movie, Robocop 3 is silly. It turns RoboCop into a Saturday morning cartoon superhero, complete with bad one-liners.

What’s peculiar about the film is the cast. It’s a veritable who’s who of television personalities–famous ones. There’s Stephen Root from “NewsRadio,” he’s really bad. CCH Pounder, I’ll use “ER” as an example to keep up the strange NBC connection, is also bad. She’s usually quite good, so I suppose by not being more visibly embarrassed while delivering her lines–well, there’s a compliment somewhere in there. Jill Hennessy from “Law & Order.” She’s absolutely atrocious. Robocop 3 was delayed a couple years while Orion worked its way out of bankruptcy and I wonder if, had it come out as scheduled, she’d ever have gotten another role again.

But my favorite has to be Bradley Whitford, if only because he’s actually all right in Robocop 3. His character’s a generic corporate slime, but Whitford’s got a couple good deliveries. It doesn’t make the movie any better, but they’re funny deliveries. I wonder if he kept the glasses he got to wear in the movie.

I haven’t seen Robocop 3 in ten years and it appears to have corked rather significantly. I haven’t even gotten to some of the worst performances, which is mind-boggling since I have mentioned Hennessy already. I’m just worried I’ll forget the stunt performers, who jump long before they have any reason to, creating an almost surreal effect. But I don’t think Dekker was trying to bring Fellini to Robocop.

There’s an annoying little kid in this one–Remy Ryan Hernandez–she’s real bad. She’s got a great scene where–after doing calculus at a Doogie Howser age–doesn’t seem to understand her parents have been bussed away (the script’s got some real logic problems). Every scene with Hernandez is painful. It’s like the filmmakers were trying to appeal to a Disney girl audience or something.

Rip Torn is also terrible here, mugging for the camera (I’d believe it if they told him he was just doing a voice for a cartoon, which might explain his exaggerated expressions and so on). John Castle, terrible. Mako, terrible. Daniel von Bargen, okay.

As the new RoboCop, Robert John Burke is the pits. Why they didn’t just leave the helmet on all the time and hire Peter Weller to dub in the lines….

Well, that suggestion makes sense and nothing in Robocop 3 makes any sense.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Fred Dekker; screenplay by Dekker and Frank Miller, based on a story by Miller and characters created by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner; director of photography, Gary B. Kibbe; edited by Bert Lovitt; music by Basil Poledouris; production designer, Hilda Stark; produced by Patrick Crowley; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Robert John Burke (RoboCop), Nancy Allen (Officer Anne Lewis), Rip Torn (The CEO), John Castle (Paul McDaggett), Jill Hennessy (Dr. Marie Lazarus), CCH Pounder (Bertha), Remy Ryan Hernandez (Nikko), Bruce Locke (Otomo), Stanley Anderson (Zack), Stephen Root (Coontz), Daniel von Bargen (Moreno), Robert DoQui (Sergeant Warren Reed), Felton Perry (Johnson), Bradley Whitford (Fleck), Mako (Kanemitsu) and Jeff Garlin (Donut Jerk).


Bottle Shock (2008, Randall Miller)

I have to make a disclosure. I try to drink the highest Robert Parker rated wine I can afford. They’ve tended to be French. Actually, I think they’ve all been French. But whatever.

Because Bottle Shock seems rather like advertising for Napa Valley wine, so much so, I’d love to see who financed it. There should have been a disclosure (one way or the other), it’s so much of a commercial. And as a commercial, Bottle Shock does a fine job. It’s a good impression of one of those charming, Miramax-released little comedy dramas from the late 1990s. Some of these also even starred Alan Rickman. It’s got a reasonably appealing cast (in the Miramax version, the actors would be better known) and it’s a diverting couple hours.

Where Bottle Shock fails as a film is having real characters or real drama. In fact, it runs away from ever having either. The inevitable American win is foretold in the opening voiceover (the film’s use of voiceover is inane, but I guess they had a bunch of helicopter shots of Napa Valley and didn’t want to subject the viewer to any more of composer Mark Adler’s gratingly affable theme music)–there’s no suspense when it comes to the actual tasting. At best, the film could have shown the French response… instead, it’s barely implied. Having Rickman be the pseudo-Frenchman of the film (a francophile Brit) is, regardless of historical accuracy, not very filmic. The wine tasting is also cut in half–the film only shows the half relating to the film’s story, which makes certain subplots entirely wasted.

But the film also forgets about a lot. Take Freddy Rodriguez’s proud vineyard worker slash winemaker who briefly romances Rachael Taylor (who’s bad, but nowhere near as atrocious as usual and far better than Eliza Dushku, who has a glorified cameo) and fights bigotry where he finds it. Rodriguez plays a big part in the beginning, but then disappears. Chris Pine–as Pullman’s son–takes over the focus, as well as Taylor’s affections. The scene where Rodriguez and Taylor resolve their romance is missing, presumably cut to give Pine (the man who will be Kirk) more screen time.

Pine’s not bad. He’s not particularly good, either, but every single character in the film is so poorly written, it’s impossible to tell what he’d do. Actually, all signs are positive. He and Pullman do have one or two honest scenes; the movie’s so blissfully mediocre, it’s impossible to fault it for not being better.

Pullman and Rickman–and Dennis Farina–phone in their performances but they’re all excellent at what they’re doing. Rickman makes fun of being British, Farina makes a Chicago reference, and Pullman is sturdy but complicated. All things they’ve been doing for fifteen years. Bottle Shock should be Pine or Rodriguez’s film (Rodriguez is a tad broad however), but the script doesn’t allow it. The movie’s got to be about advertising that Napa Valley wine, not the characters. The end text reminds these are real people in the story and presumably bound to faithful retelling… it just doesn’t make their stories interesting. The characters, like I said before, are terrible–they’re out of TV commercials.

Randall Miller’s direction is annoying. He’s got some big cranes and a lot of helicopters and uses them all the time. He shoots the movie Panavision–I’m hoping to get the expanse of the vineyards in frame–but then does shaky handheld for conversation scenes. It adds to the movie’s air of incompetence. It’s not a charming air either.

Failing comparisons to those Miramax low budget charmers aside, Bottle Shock isn’t awful and it’s diverting enough. If it were a television movie, it’d probably be exceptional. Well, maybe if it were on USA or something, it’d be exceptional. I just wish they’d given some of the fine actors–Miguel Sandoval’s in it and I don’t even want to talk about the tiny (but wonderfully acted) Bradley Whitford appearance–characters to play instead of advertising to deliver.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Randall Miller; screenplay by Miller, Jody Savin and Ross Schwartz, based on a story by Schwartz, Lannette Pabon, Savin and Miller; director of photography, Mike Ozier; edited by Miller and Dan O’Brien; music by Mark Adler; production designer, Craig Stearns; produced by Miller, Savin, J. Todd Harris, Marc Toberoff, Brenda Lhormer and Marc Lhormer; released by Freestyle Releasing.

Starring Bill Pullman (Jim Barrett), Alan Rickman (Steven Spurrier), Chris Pine (Bo Barrett), Freddy Rodriguez (Gustavo Brambila), Rachael Taylor (Sam Clayton), Dennis Farina (Maurice Cantavale), Miguel Sandoval (Garcia), Eliza Dushku (Joe), Bradley Whitford (Professor Saunders) and Joe Regalbuto (Bill).


Vital Signs (1990, Marisa Silver)

I’d forgotten grown men used to wear cut-off, midriff-revealing shirts. Adrian Pasdar does in the final scene of Vital Signs. It’s horrifying.

Pasdar also bulks up throughout the picture, maybe for his shirtless scenes in the late second act, or for that closing shot.

And even though Vital Signs is tripe, another failed studio attempt to launch a new Brat Pack, Pasdar’s a decent leading man. He’s not always good, but he’s probably only got three bad scenes–a miracle, given the script and his co-stars. He runs the movie well. So well, in fact, he even out night-time soaps special guest star (sorry, it’s a “with” credit, I forgot) William Devane. Actually, Devane’s brief appearance is a disappointment, as he gives it with less forcefulness than he would an Altoids commercial.

The supporting cast has one big surprise (well, two, if discovering Jane Adams had a Happiness career counts)–Jimmy Smits isn’t terrible. He even exhibits some potential.

Adams is good but the movie ignores her romance with her (formerly) platonic roommate Tim Ransom to the point it almost forgets them. Ransom’s the goofy late 1980s guys who wears hats (Corey Feldman was busy, I imagine) but he’s not bad. Laura San Giacomo and Jack Gwaltney are both awful. Even though San Giacomo smiles a lot and Gwaltney doesn’t at all, neither exhibit any emotion. Diane Lane–as Pasdar’s love interest–is unintentionally hilarious. She doesn’t seem intelligent enough to get a pizza order right, much less be a doctor. In a pivotal role, Norma Aleandro fails (and it hurts the movie a little).

Bradley Whitford’s kind of funny in a small role. Vital Signs is during his jerk phase.

What’s strange about the movie is the direction. Marisa Silver is far from radical, but she does a really sturdy job with it. And given the terrible Miles Goodman score (lots of guitar), it’s an accomplishment. She’s better than the script, which is laughable.

Watching Vital Signs, the biggest surprise is how long it took Pasdar to find a successful hour-long drama job. If anything, it shows how natural he’d be at one.

Maybe everyone remembered the midriff-revealing, baby blue sweatshirt.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Marisa Silver; screenplay by Larry Ketron and Jeb Stuart, based on a story by Ketron; director of photography, John Lindley; edited by Robert Brown and Danford B. Greene; music by Miles Goodman; production designer, Todd Hallowell; produced by Laurie Perlman and Cathleen Summers; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Adrian Pasdar (Michael Chatham), Diane Lane (Gina Wyler), Jack Gwaltney (Kenny Rose), Laura San Giacomo (Lauren Rose), Jane Adams (Suzanne Maloney), Tim Ransom (Bobby Hayes), Bradley Whitford (Dr. Donald Ballentine), Lisa Jane Persky (Bobby), William Devane (Dr. Chatham), Norma Aleandro (Henrietta Walker) and Jimmy Smits (Dr. David Redding).


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