I paid to see The Avengers—funny, I still haven’t received a screening notice—and found that, despite some classy touches (like the casting of Fiona Shaw and Eileen Atkins), elaborate gimmickry, and a hypnotic coulda-woulda-shoulda feel to the whole thing, the flick is indeed a futile exercise in making a dry martini out of sand. The audacious adaptation misfires by expending truckloads of effort in straining to seem absolutely effortless.
The two cold-fish stars, Ralph Fiennes and the badly accented Uma Thurman, are made to pile on sexual innuendo (“Push!”), comment on everything before and after (“That would seem to have been a kiss”), and spout would-be banter with an attitude that wrongly assumes that acting droll is the same as being droll. Since the characters already don’t mean what they say, Ralph’s and Uma’s winky distance from the dialogue puts them in a whole other movie–one directed by Nichols and May.
Guest star Sean Connery is hidden under a giant teddy bear suit much of the time, and Eddie Izzard should be mad that he isn’t; the much heralded comic only gets to pop gum, smirk, and say one line–“Oh, fuck!”–before croaking and hopefully getting a new agent. I was never that big a fan of the TV show, but I am now. Oh, fuck!
As for that insatiable avenger Michael Myers, am I the only one who found Halloween: H20 more ludicrous than even a fourth sequel needs to be? The problem for me was that every time Jamie Lee Curtis attacks her murderous brother in self-defense, she brilliantly leaves the weapon right beside him before running for her life. Then guess what happens–Michael invariably revives against all odds, grabs the knife, and goes right back after her sorry ass. In all the chasing back and forth, Jamie never says, “Michael, how can you do this? Why don’t you take off that stupid mask and let’s discuss? I’m your sister!” She simply resumes that infernal running, providing a lengthy cat-and-mouse game that’s enough to make you start hoping for glue traps.
Then there’s Mike Myers, who plays Steve Rubell in the big disco mirror ball called 54 (funny, I haven’t received a screening notice for that one yet either). But the real terror is that, according to Page Six, some homoerotic footage has been cut from the movie because it made the preview audience uncomfortable (Miramax says it was just streamlining). The flick reportedly still has tons of gay stuff in it, but it’s been through so many watering-down processes by now–the busboy character’s apparently gone from gay to experimental to Trent Lott–that maybe they should just call the damned thing Au Bar.
The next stop, Next Stop Wonderland, is a very likable, if ultimately conventional, straight dating movie that floats over you like a bossa nova. Then again, what do I know?–I preferred The Parent Trap to Saving Private Ryan. At the Screening Room reception for Wonderland–before I saw the movie–an avenger barreled up to me and said, “You destroyed my show Queens Boulevard! Write something nice about Alan Gelfant! He’s in the movie and I’m friends with his mother!” Well, I met Gelfant and he seemed very well-mannered, and I’d like to meet the mother, too. I was also introduced to Wonderland‘scoscreenwriter Lyn Vaus, but after answering a few questions, he stopped short, saying, “You know you’re only going to write about what I’m wearing and if I made a pass at you.” He was wearing a white button-down shirt. He didn’t.
Hope Davis didn’t either. The actress–whom we highbrows remember from all those Nicky Silver plays–is perfectly endearing in an ironic way that could even pull off white apparel. Asked about the movie’s bizarre print ads, in which her face looks like someone else’s, she said, “It’s called airbrushing. They spaced my eyes out to not look so cross-eyed, they straightened my teeth, my lips are bigger. . . . ” Hopefully they’re not the same folks who edited 54. I began to ask Hope if she’s the new (but darker and more reflexive) Teri Garr, Meg Ryan, or Jenna Elfman, but instead wondered how she feels about others who resort to such kooky hype. “It’s a load of hooey,” she said. “I’m just the same old me, but nobody was willing to pay me for it before.”
The same old adorable actor Liev Schreiber chimed in that Hope looks really hot in the movie, especially in the scene with the transparent bra. “No snatch?” I wondered in that ever tasteful way. “No snatch,” said Liev. “But Todd Solondz‘s new movie Happiness has snatch!” (Not in the final version I just saw–though, watch out, Cameron Diaz, the brilliant film does supply two more tips for semen use.) No connection here, but the conversation inevitably turned to Ally McBeal, and Hope looked deeply disturbed as she said, “I find it really depressing.” “But it’s Calista!” chirped Liev. “It makes me frantic and lonely,” insisted Hope. Suddenly we were all suicidal. But Robert Klein perked things up by telling Hope, “A lot of my scenes were cut, but who cares about me? You’re gonna be giant! There’s something wonderfully appealing about you. The nose could start a whole new trend!”
I followed my schnozz into the screening–“It’s better than Sphere,” promised Liev (when asked)–but not until cracking to Harvey Weinstein that they’re saying his GLAAD award will be revoked if 54 doesn’t measure up. “It’ll be an honorarium after Velvet Goldmine,” he said. “Todd Haynesis the next Scorsese!” Next stop, Casinoland?
Oh, if we can stop for a second at Adulteryville–push!–I got a kick out of reading Ray Kerrison‘s New York Post column, clearly written for an early deadline, which said, “You can bet on one absolute certainty: Clinton did not tell the truth” in his grand jury testimony the night before. This in the same issue which revealed that the guy finally told the truth! Sort of.
Come to think of it, though, Bill’s all-new lies are really starting to unnerve. I mean, Hillary having to pretend that she just found out about Mouthica has got to be the best performance since Tonya Harding‘s shock over Nancy whatsername having been clubbed. And Clinton’s invocation of God was an even cheaper stunt–come on, there are people who really believe in that stuff! As for his reported feeling that getting a blowjob doesn’t constitute “sexual relations” because the other person isn’t being gratified, excuse me, Mr. Thing, but if that were true, why are there trillions more people on chat lines and in personals begging to service people than there are those who want to be serviced–I hear. If Bill’s sexual philosophy has any validity, then I’m a fucking virgin.
But let me climax by filling you in on what’s been going down at Out. After a very silly start (though not too silly for me to nab an assignment there), I thought James Collard‘s gig as editor of that national gay magazine began clicking with the quite spiffy-looking current issue. But then he went and told my friend Michelangelo Signorile–who many feel was the backbone of the mag–that he should stick to reported pieces instead of commentary columns, which Collard said are passé. (Signorile chose not to do anything anymore.) LarryKramer‘s been calling me to say Collard’s “a wretched twit who never should have been let out of England.” (You know, the home of The Avengers.) Responds Collard, “Larry’s such a sweet old thing, isn’t he? Like Quentin Crisp, he’s a living treasure–and we should cherish him.” Me-ow, that sounds like commentary to me.
Michael Musto can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 1, 1998