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Monday, June 27, 2011

SLIPSTREAM (2007) -- movie review by porfle

Anthony Hopkins the writer-director just may be as nutty as Hannibal Lecter.  (Hey, that rhymes!)  Or so it may seem while watching SLIPSTREAM (2007).  It's one of those movies about making movies that people who make movies like to make in order to show us what a crazy world they live in by taking it to the extreme and making it even more crazy.  You're never sure what's real, and what's a dream, delusion, or rift in the time-space continuum.  Which doesn't always make for an entertaining or even vaguely coherent film--but in this case it's both.  I think.

Summarizing the plot is difficult, but here goes.  Anthony Hopkins plays a screenwriter named Felix Bonhoeffer who may or may not have been involved in a traffic-jam-rage shooting, may or may not have a cute, perpetually-chatty blond companion named Tracy (Lisa Pepper), and may or may not have been urgently summoned to a diner in the desert near Las Vegas where filming of his latest script has been halted due to the sudden death of the star, Matt Dobbs (Christian Slater) on the set.  Felix must write Matt's character out of the script while the ineffectual director (Gavin Grazer) and balls-out nuts producer (a very funny John Turturro) try to salvage the project.

Meanwhile, Bette Lustig (Fionnula Flanagan) is either a woman on her way to Las Vegas to visit her sister-in-law or an actress in the film, while Bette's niece Gina (co-producer Stella Arroyave) is either Bette's niece or Felix's wife.  Michael Clarke Duncan plays either a bartender named Mort who gets whacked by a gangster named Ray (Slater), or an actor in the movie named Phil Henderson, or a highway cop whose partner is played by Slater.  Jeffrey Tambor is wonderfully geeky as either Ray's gangster crony Geek, an actor named Jeffrey, or a doctor named Dr. Geekman.

Also appearing in the people-studded cast are Christopher Lawford as Lars the cheerful cinematographer, Camryn Manheim as volatile script girl Barbara, S. Epatha Merkerson as either a waitress or an actress named Bonnie, William Lucking as Det. Buzz Larabee, and Kevin McCarthy in a wonderful appearance as himself, reacting with pleasant surprise when Felix mentions to him that he was the hero of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.  "I was?" Kevin beams.  "How do you like that!"

It's never made quite clear what's going on (until the last second) but we suspect that, due to work-related stress, something's not quite right in Felix's mind.  At least that's as close as I could figure for most of the movie.  It's all like a deluxe "Twilight Zone" episode that Rod Serling might have written after someone slipped LSD into his coffee. 

From the very beginning, SLIPSTREAM is a continuous stream of engaging oddness, ranging from neat little looping effects and subliminal flashes that foreshadow the future, comment on the present, or simply baffle, to full-blown Oliver Stone/NATURAL BORN KILLERS pastiche.  This may sound terribly arty and indulgent, but it's all great fun in Hopkins' capable hands.  No shot is left untouched--Felix's perceptions of reality are always being tweaked in some way large or small. The movie looks like it was edited by a guy with two turntables and a microphone, while the soundtrack often seems like something John Lennon and Yoko Ono might have created after warming up with "Revolution 9." 

The diner scene is my favorite.  Slater and Tambor (as gangsters Ray and Geek) slide into a booth and then quickly set about terrorizing everyone in the place, including Bette and Gina, who have stopped off on their way to Vegas, and Merkerson's Bonnie (the waitress, not the actress).  The ways in which they screw with everyone's heads just get wackier and wackier, especially when they start imitating Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo.  At one point Geek discovers an old autographed photo of Kevin McCarthy on the wall, which sets them both off on an aggressively nostalgic, guns-drawn, in-your-face INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS rant.  (It's their favorite movie.)  This sequence alone would make a great short film--one which might even weird out David Lynch a little.

Occasionally, the goofball momentum does lag a bit, and there are moments in which it all seems a tad too self-conscious.  But these are few and far between, and for the most part it's pure baffling fun all the way to the end, when things get just clear enough for you to finally be able to nod and say, " that's it."  

Unless, that is, you sit through the credits, which feature a rewind of the entire movie from last to first frame accompanied by a dazzling piano performance by Anthony Hopkins himself, until the final seconds reveal the real, no kidding "Ah, so that's it" ending.  So there are actually two endings to SLIPSTREAM--one for the people who stop watching the movie when the credits start rolling, and one for those of us who dig hearing Anthony Hopkins jamming his distinguished butt off on the keyboard.  (He also composed the film's score, by the way.)

You may have a low tolerance for movies like this, and indeed I wouldn't blame you if five minutes of this one made you want to rip the DVD out of the player and Frisbee it off an overpass or something.  But I liked what Anthony Hopkins was trying to do here and admired the way he did it.  So if you're slightly nutty yourself, you just might go coo-coo for SLIPSTREAM.

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