11 July 2000 | stephen niz
Unfunny things are happening to Dwayne Hoover
Kurt Vonnegut's satirical novel of 1973 resonates as deeply now as it did way back then. The themes of suburban paranoia and soulless consumerism have motivated some of the best films of the last twelve months, so an inspired interpretation of Breakfast of Champions would have been warmly endorsed.
It's clearly been a labour of love for director Alan Rudolph, who has tried for twenty years to make this film. Sadly, twenty years of work appears to have produced one bad draft copy. And Rudolph does not have the slightest grasp on what is funny.
Nick Nolte wanders aimlessly around in a dress but it isn't funny. Albert Finney searches out his chaotic literary masterpieces in pornographic magazines but it isn't funny. Barbara Hershey's character is a product of the chaos, but her appearances lack a motive. She isn't required until the film bursts into chaotic life in its last ten minutes.
This means three great actors are left stranded. It results in the unlikely event of Bruce Willis stealing the acting honours. He is good, but one feels it would have been no great stretch to act insane.
Among the problems here is that the film keeps its feet on the ground. While we're expected to believe the world has gone mad, the actual events are as uninspired as they are unfunny. This doesn't mean it is any easier to understand. In fact, without having read the novel, you'd most likely be lost from the beginning.
The chaos of Vonnegut's vision was its real joy. The way characters conspired to come together was inventive. The film though plays like a cliche. The ending is anarchic, but you get the impression it only serves one purpose: to stop you making rational sense of the rest of the film. And as much as you want to like it, or applaud Rudolph's commitment, the truth is that BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS is a sad, poor film.