12 December 2005 | dglink
Trio of Talented Actors in an Unconvincing and Wordy Film
Despite the earnest work of three talented actors, "The Dying Gaul" is a slow and ponderous film that betrays its stage origins. Unfortunately, the film opens with a scene that seems improbable, if not downright impossible, as a film producer attempts to purchase an original screenplay from a first-time writer who plays coy over principles, despite a million-dollar carrot. Before long, the producer seduces the writer, and the two men carry on an illicit affair behind the back of the producer's wife. However, the wife is intrigued after meeting the writer, and she begins to correspond with him in on-line chat rooms under the guise of a gay man. The sham that the wife uses to uncover the affair and psychologically harass the young writer would not fool anyone, let alone an educated writer, and the film falls apart from lack of credibility. Although Hitchcock may have been able to make lengthy scenes of two characters instant-messaging each other over a computer into classic cinema, director Craig Lucas has yet to hone those skills, and the instant-messaging exchanges are leaden to be polite. Fortunately, my watch has a dial that illuminates in the dark. The direction of the film in general is slowly paced, and there is little visual excitement or breaking through the boundaries of the stage-bound dialog.
Fortunately, the always-wonderful Patricia Clarkson plays the wife, and she does wonders with a part that is not intrinsically interesting. While Peter Sarsgaard generally falls into the "always-wonderful" category as well, his subtly mincing shtick as the gay writer seems as though it were lifted from the worst episodes of "Will and Grace." Sarsgaard played a gay (or bisexual) man far more convincingly in "Kinsey." While there certainly are effeminate and fey gay men, those stereotypes have already been played to death on screen, and a fresher concept would have been expected of an actor with the talents of Sarsgaard. Campbell Scott plays his part well, although, when a viewer's mind wanders to thoughts of how well Scott is aging, the actor is apparently not fully engaging the audience's attention.
"The Dying Gaul," while not a complete failure, is nonetheless a disappointment and little more than an acting exercise for three talented performers. The wordiness and leisurely pacing may have worked on stage, and the flimsy plot devices may also have played more credibly in the theater. However, on film, "The Dying Gaul" fails to engage or convince and ultimately falls flat.