COLLABORATOR


There was something that felt a tad outdated and forty years too late in the movie Collaborator, the new film written, directed and starring Martin Donovan.  He portrays a playwright whose last theatrical venture has spectacularly failed.  That part, of course, isn’t forty years too late, but an all too common occurrence these days.  What does feel a bit at odds with the space/time continuum is when he’s described as someone who was once thought to be the voice of his generation.  Really?  A playwright?  Can you imagine describing a contemporary poet or classical composer in such terms (as Lord Byron and Wagner once were)?  I can’t.  I do admit I’m not quite up to date when it comes to the latest offerings of Broadway, whether On, Off- or Off-Off- (or even regional), but this seems written by someone who may have a slightly exaggerated view of the state of Dionysus in this modern world.  But the whole movie feels like everyone is just a tad too old for their rolls.  Well, they’re not; their ages do correspond to the ones attributed to the characters.  But something just seems off here.  It’s not just Donovan as the mid-life crises writer, Robert Longfellow; or the Viet Nam vet Gus, played by David Morse; but especially Olivia Williams as Emma, a beautiful actress who is only just now, at the age of 44, contemplating having children.  It’s almost like watching Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer playing Romeo and Juliet (and, yes, they verily didst).  The story starts out at a leisurely pace made even more leisurely by Donovan’s laid back approach to acting (often very effective, but his gloom and doom aura may drag things down a bit more than is wise this time around), until Gus pulls a gun on Robert and takes him hostage.  There are some nice scenes after this, mainly the ones where Gus talks with Emma on the phone, in seventh heaven over speaking to a celebrity of her status.  In many ways, it was scenes like this that made me wonder whether this was actually suppose to be a dark comedy (and might have worked better if it was).  But no, Donavan is deadly serious, as deadly serious as his acting style; there’s hardly a light moment in the thing, even when it’s the middle of the day outside (which it isn’t very often).  The story then makes progress by the characters playing theater games, which again felt a bit anachronistic—one wondered whether a round of Get the Guest wasn’t waiting around the corner.  It ends with a conflict over the politics of the Viet Nam war.  Yes, it’s 2012, and the big argument is not over Afghanistan or Iraq, but a war that ended more than three decades ago.  And it doesn’t help that this exchange came out of nowhere with no real set up.  The ending is shocking, but a bit puzzling.  Since it was a bit unclear what Donovan was trying to do here, there was no real emotional after effect.  The whole thing just sort of ends.

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