Screening of His New Film
The Dying Gaul
June 28, 2005
Frank J. Avella
Joan Allen, Campbell Scott
and Craig Lucas
According to writer/director,
Craig Lucas, no one would do Longtime Companion
(1990). No one except Campbell Scott who actually
wanted to be in it. And anyone who has seen the
film (still the best film to deal with AIDS) knows
that if there was any justice in the movie world,
Scott would have been nominated for a Best Supporting
Alas, he wasn’t.
And even after his remarkable, award-winning turn
in Roger Dodger (2002) he was still passed
In 1991 there was
an attempt to tinseltown-bitchcrown him with the
Julia Roberts weepy Dying Young and, as
good as he was, the film flopped saving Scott from
potential Jude Law-leading-man-limbo-land. Hollywood’s
loss proved to be the cinema lover’s gain
as Scott secured his spot in indiefilmland.
His eclectic work
stands on it’s own and his astonishing talents
can be viewed in such films as: Singles
(1992); Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
(1994); Big Night (1996--also co-directed
by Scott); The Day Trippers (1997); The
Spanish Prisoner (1997) and The Secret
Lives of Dentists (2004). In addition to Big
Night, he’s shown his directorial mettle
in Hamlet (2000), Final (2001)
and this year’s amazing Off the Map.
The world premiere
of his latest masterperformance in The Dying
Gaul (see review below) allowed Lincoln Center’s
YOUNG FRIENDS OF FILM to honor the still-very young
Scott last month (June 28th) at the Walter Reade
The guest list included
his co-stars: Patricia Clarkson and Peter Sarsgaard;
Craig Lucas, Mary-Louise Parker, Joan Allen and
a slew of Baldwins (Alec, included).
The gala culminated
in a black tie cocktail reception where the truly
modest and sincerely gracious Mr. Scott spent the
evening giving interviews and chatting with tribute
With so many tributes
being bestowed nowadays on each and every actor
who sells movie tickets, regardless of talent, it
is refreshing to see someone as craft-conscious
and gifted as Campbell Scott get the recognition
he deserves. Kudos to Lincoln Center for the celebration
and kudos for Scott for being brilliantly discerning
in his career choices.
Patricia Clarkson and Peter
The Dying Gaul
Lincoln Center Tribute to Campbell Scott
Reviewed by Frank
The Dying Gaul represents
the impressive directorial debut of acclaimed playwright,
Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, Reckless).
Lucas, who has also penned a few screenplays (Longtime
Companion, The Secret Lives of Dentists)
seems a natural behind the camera and his filmic
initiation is, for the most part, a triumph.
The Dying Gaul (adapted
by Lucas from his stage play) is simultaneously
an indictment of the avarice and hedonism of Hollywood
as well as a meditation on the dangers of deception,
self and otherwise.
Peter Sarsgaard plays Robert,
a struggling screenwriter who finally snags an opportunity
to sell a script and pocket a million dollars. The
problem is that the studio insists he change a key
character from male to female, killing any homosexual
angle and, in turn, bastardizing and commercializing
Robert’s very personal project.
Robert eventually capitulates
and finds himself sexually seduced by Jeffrey (Campbell
Scott), the powermad studio head and they embark
on a toxic affair despite the fact that Jeffrey
has a wife, Elaine (Patricia Clarkson) and two children.
Through an enveloping and elaborate
set of plot points, Elaine discovers that Robert
and Jeffrey are having an affair, sparking a series
of astonishing and shattering events that forever
change our three protagonists.
The success of the film hinges
on the strength of the three lead actors and Lucas
is savvy enough to have cast his work to perfection.
Peter Sarsgaard is playfully sexy,
intensely intriguing and downright creepy as the
grieving writer, who proves, ironically, to be the
Indie queen and thesp-extraordinaire,
Patricia Clarkson, tackles the complex role of fascinated
friend/scorned wife with admirable aplomb and is
fearlessly triumphant in etching a nuanced portrait
of a frustrated artist forced into stagnation.
The most difficult role is that
of Jeffrey and the genius in Campbell Scott’s
portrayal is that he could have easily opted for
the cliche’s normally associated with a studio
head (greedy, artistically-challenged, non-intellectual).
Instead, Scott gives us an authentic person who
has become morally bankrupt by the Hollyworld he
must exist in yet someone who isn’t quite
lost yet. Jeffrey struggles with dual nature, artistically
and sexually. in many respects, he’s a true
bisexual. He is a control freak who is, himself,
spinning out of control--and Scott knows just when
to turn it up and then tone it down. It is a deeply
penetrating and affecting performance.
The Dying Gaul is a visual
feast. Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski exquisitely
captures the chilly, spiritually-vapid world of
Lucas proves to be such an assured
director (the continuous sense of foreboding is
downright chilling) that one can forgive the all-too
abrupt ending followed by a coda that should have
had more of a sting.
Regardless, he and the Gaul crew
should be commended for creating a devastating piece
of cinema that never compromises. And how rare is
that in the U.S. in 2005?