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Eddie (Sean Penn) and Mickey (Kevin Spacey) live and work together in Los Angeles. In between doing drugs, Eddie pines for his former girlfriend Darlene (Robin Wright Penn), with whom Mickey is having an affair. He’s also caught up trying to deal with his confused, violent, unemployed friend Phil (Chazz Palmenteri). After one running battle with Mickey, Eddie returns home to find the sleazy Artie (Garry Shandling) has left a "care package" in the form of teenage runaway Donna (Anna Paquin). Meanwhile, Phil’s marriage goes from bad to worse. He’s on the edge and Eddie decides he might find solace in the arms of an accommodating hooker Bonnie (Meg Ryan). But matters quickly get out of hand.

"When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won."
Shakespeare - Macbeth, Act i. Sc. 1.

"While the allusion may be rather flattering, Anthony Drazan’s Hurlyburly isn’t so far from the core themes in Macbeth. Greed, corruption, envy and uneasy relationships with women feature in this version of David Rabe’s acclaimed play. Drazan’s exploration of male relationships is as powerful as Glengarry Glen Ross and as shocking as In the Company of Men. While the film is very wordy, the dialogue is a highlight. It is by turns funny, searching, visceral, disgusting and insightful. Unfortunately, the emphasis on dialogue means the film does not relate easily in cinematic terms. Despite outstanding performances and beautifully designed sets, the film has a cold feel, and it sags in the middle of its 2 hours running time. Sean Penn won the Volpi Cup at Venice for portraying Eddie’s desperate search for meaning; and the honour is fully deserved. Also outstanding is Chazz Palmenteri as Phil, a man whose life is spiraling out of control, and who is hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with it. Kevin Spacey puts in a convincing turn as the odious Mickey; and Robin Wright Penn’s Darlene is as calculating as any of them. A word of warning - the characters in this film are almost entirely unlikeable. But try to move beyond that to see the frightening study of men’s interaction Drazan and Rabe have created. Hurlyburly is the kind of film you’ll find gnawing at you for days."
David Edwards

" They're all lost souls, caught up in a downward spiralling quagmire of self-pity. On stage, over a decade ago, it might have worked; as we approach a new century, Rabe's politics seem dated and pretentious. The overwritten screenplay is nothing more than verbal diarrhoea. It's a story about the intensity of human emotions, the anger and frustration we feel at ourselves, yet there's no emotional connection between any of the characters and the audience. As in the theatre, there is this perpetual proscenium arch standing in the way, and we are never allowed any real insight into which these narcissistic, pathetic creatures are. Director Anthony Drazan has little mastery of cinematic language, concentrating on static camera movements and lengthy close ups as a means to accentuate the actors, as if to further say: Hey, this is a move, now you can see these guys' faces. Performances are generally fine, with Penn proving what an indomitable presence he has on the screen, and he does some great work here, while Anna Paquin, as a sexually aggressive drifter, shows how much she's changed. The other women do very little while Kevin Spacey excels as the sleazy roommate and casting associate of Penn. Chazz Palminteri, as a boorish actor, is strained and one-note. Hurlyburly is a kind of curiosity, more than anything, a collection of interesting actors on show, in a theatrical, stagy rendition of an ordinary play. As cinema, this is downright appalling."
Paul Fischer

"An adaptation of David Rabe’s much-acclaimed play, Hurlyburly plunges ahead with a peculiar, synthetic, theatrical energy. There are lots of nervous, jerky head-to-waist shots of guys waving their arms and jabbering at each other: the film's aloof glass-and-concrete Los Angeles is like a sounding board for the characters, a stark modern stage set. In a remote parody of Method realism, everyone speaks in a weird dialect made up of breast-beating rant interlaced with constant trick words and phrases. ‘I’m talking about a syllogism here. A goddamn syllogism!’ ‘You’re not getting clandestine on me, are you?’ This torrent of mannered language, flowing through a two-hour orgy of bad behavior, creates an enjoyably crazed sense of emotions cut loose. It’s an actor’s party. Sean Penn gets to completely self-destruct about once every scene; Kevin Spacey, platinum blond for the occasion, delivers snide putdowns like a Californian George Sanders, unflappably suave, cool and bitchy. The women have less fun, since they’re mainly around to be trashed or used as fantasy props: Robin Wright Penn seems understandably remote throughout, while Meg Ryan, playing a promiscuous stripper, works painfully hard at a truly thankless task. Anna Paquin’s role as a teen sex doll turned angel of mercy vaguely evokes Christina Ricci in Buffalo 66, and altogether Hurlyburly fits well into the current cycle of US films (from There’s Something About Mary to In The Company Of Men) that decry and celebrate male sexual paranoia in the guise of ‘political incorrectness.’ This is a little surprising considering that Rabe’s play was written more than ten years ago, but then I suppose misogyny and macho self-pity never really go out of fashion."
Jake Wilson

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CAST: Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Garry Shandling, Meg Ryan, Robin Wright Penn, Anna Paquin

PRODUCERS: Anthony Drazan, Richard N. Gladstein

DIRECTOR: Anthony Drazan

SCRIPT: David Rabe (from his stage play)


EDITOR: Dylan Tichenor, Tatiana S. Riegel

MUSIC: David Baerwarld, Steve Lindsey


RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes



VIDEO RELEASE: July 28, 1999


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