The beat moves on. It's a mad, mad world among the coke-sniffing wanna-bes and wanna-stays working for the entertainment industry in L.A. whether they're busy doing business or making their on-the-move short stops at home and/or among their friends. The wild, whirlwind antics of anxiety rule the world they spin atop. And who knows where they'll be thrown next?
© Indies Film Distribution / Storm Entertainment Inc.
© MVSP Publicity/Promotion/Public Relations
Slick, sharp and ruthless, these casting- agents-cum-big-boys have gotta stay on top to make sure they don't wind up on the bottom. Keep up to date with the flavor-of-the-month and don't ever let yourself get tied up by feelings. Hangin' out with hopeless cases who harbor hopeless dreams is okay, but don't let anybody important get wind of it. Gotta keep on movin', and movin' up is the only way to go. Keep your fists aimed high as you slip down into the abyss. All this being said, one must point out that the movie is a comedy, albeit a very dark one. It's comic; it's horrible; it's a lot like life.

Eddie (Sean Penn) is the main man whose public and private life always seems to be one heaped- up-ball of turmoil for which he has to keep on his toes and shovin' up his nose in order to stay in the race. Mickey (Kevin Spacey), his friend and housemate, is a debonair man of dubious standards who is as capable of revealing his true self as a demented chameleon. (N.B.- Spacey says that "Mickey is probably lost. He's lost in some way, and this lifestyle he has adopted is a diversion. He's struggling, like most of us, to get through the day. And although he is doing the best he can, he has created this veneer in which you cannot tell all the time whether this person is serious or sincere, or whether this person is completely full of crap.") Their neighbor, Artie (Garry Shandling), finds their friendships useful in a self-serving kind of way while reaching out to solace his own numerous insecurities. Their buddy Phil (Chazz Palminteri) is an aging and aspiring actor, cum frequently out-of-work extra, who wants to be a good guy, but is seen too often as a loser. Bonnie's (Meg Ryan) a good looking number in Eddie's phone book, who's considered an easy lay by the guys, but turns out to have a stronger character than they're able to recognize and, come what may, always remains a lady determined to make up her own mind. Darlene's (Robin Wright Penn) lack of morals or dedication lets her walk her way non-plussed down the path of life while trampling on others. Donna's (Anna Paquin) a drifter who latches on to the next ride in life (whatever that may be), and has become a survivor in the bargain. These people shift from the shadows between darkness and light. If you wind up hangin' with this crowd, you're bound to wind up in trouble, but you wouldn't be there in the first place unless trouble was already on your tail.

Penn played the role of Eddie previously in 1988 under the direction of playwright David Rabe at Westwood Playhouse and Kevin Spacey understudied every role in the original 1984 Broadway production, finally stepping into the role of Mickey when Ron Silver left the show. Penn proves, more than ever before, that he commands a post as first-class actor and that growth can be astounding when potential is natured. Both Penn and Spacey have long dreamt of being in a movie version of Rabe's play and Anthony Drazan's direction has finally made their dream come true. Drazan's understanding of the human interactions in this tale is both sensitively and appropriately explored. In reflection, he says, "These characters are in the throes of some kind of spiritual crisis, which I find to be very universal. There's something timeless about somebody's personal dynamics.

David Rabe's sharp dialogue turns this into an actors' ensemble piece where point perfect performances spin the viewer's mind to attention. Not an easy job, especially when taking into consideration the original stage performances that brought this piece to life many years ago. Fifteen years have passed since William Hurt, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Jerry Stiller, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, and Judith Ivey performed the roles on- stage now respectively portrayed in the movie version by Sean Penn, Chazz Palminten, Kevin Spacey, Garry Shandling, Anna Paquin, Robin Wright Penn, and Meg Ryan. The Broadway show, under the direction of Mike Nichols, was quite an event at the time which easily might raise the expectations of what a filmed version would be like, especially since it has taken such a long time to reach the screen. Director Drazan has both respected the author's sense of dialogue and managed to elicit magnificent performances from the entire cast. Modern touches like fast-cars for the fast-lanes and mobil-phones for never-ending communicados keep the action rolling like a white line from Hell. Buckle up your seat belts. This is the parallel world of the shakers and movers. A mind bender, a head spinner and modern tale of horror terrifying in its honesty that will leave you gasping for breath.

As Kevin Spacey says, "It's a movie about the way in which men negotiate with each other through language."

In other words, whatever you do, no matter where you are, don't ever forget: Blah, blah, blah.... Rapeteta. And pleasant dreams.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett