Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


Felix Webb (Wilson), a successful English playwright with a new play in rehearsal, The Hit Man, is dithering whether to desert his perfect wife Elena (Galiena) and family, for Hilary (Newton) a beautiful feisty young actress, who has just been cast as the star of his play. He loves both of them and his decency holds him back from walking out. The director, Humphrey Beal (Humphries) has also cast a better known American star, Robin Grange (Bon Jovi), in the co-starring role. Grange is a charismatic but dangerous young man, who quickly exploits the situation by offering to seduce Elena, as a kind of love therapy. But if that weren’t enough, Grange proves to be an expert manipulator who insinuates himself into all their lives, like some corrupting fluid.

"The Leading Man brings together a diverse cast that works through its very differences. The camera loves Jon Bon Jovi, and we are graced with enough tight close ups to satisfy the fans. The surprise is how good he is in the role of Robin Grange. He brings such complexity and credibility to this manipulative character, as we go along for the ride. An interesting script with compelling elements: however, Lambert Wilson’s Felix would have been more satisfying had the character been written with more appeal - at least at the beginning; I found myself wondering throughout why did this creep have two gorgeous women hankering after him. The depth of passion in Anna Galiena’s Elena, the discarded wife who blossoms in the course of the seduction by the leading man, is perhaps the most satisfying element in the film. Thandie Newton is delightful, although the emotional range of her role is somewhat limited as the film progresses. Nicole Kidman’s cameo role as the Oscar presenter is a nice touch, reuniting her with Newton, another cast member from John Duigan’s Flirting. Barry Humphries makes a most convincing Humphrey Beal; Dame Edna has perhaps overshadowed Humphries’ other talents."
Louise Keller

"I disagree with Louise about Humphries’ performance; I think we can see him acting. However, this is a minor grumble, and I do agree that Felix could have done with either a very handsome exterior or a more genial personality. As is, it’s a bit hard to see what they see in him. That aside, I enjoyed the film’s intelligent and slightly edgy script, and found Jon Bon Jovi remarkably effective. He manages to convey that dangerous charm which belies a sinister intellect and cold heart at work. Thandie Newton continues to be excellent, and Anna Galiena does a marvellous transformation from jealous, burdened wife to rekindled firewood as the seduced mistress. I do have one reservation, though, the ending: the final scene is unnecessary and cuts across the effect of the one before it, which is a much better, tighter, more powerful - if ambiguous - finish. But John Duigan is an excellent film maker; pity he is doing it over there, not here. "
Andrew L. Urban

"Director John Duigan is a master of human behaviour, as he has proven from such diverse gems as Year my Voice Broke, Mouth to Mouth, Winter of our Dreams and Flirting. The Leading Man is a far slighter work that one normally gets from Duigan, but still his ensemble British cast and American import (Jon Bon Jovi) together create an ironic, self-mocking comedy set within the world of the theatre, but which easily could have been set in the film world. Sex, politics, power, manipulative behaviour - none of these are confined to the theatre, and perhaps this sense of universality is what makes Leading Man a pleasure to watch. Nicely written, with wry British observations, and featuring strong performances all round, while this is not one of Duigan's best works, it's still a sharply observed piece, beautifully performed."
Paul Fischer

Email this article

Jon Bon Jovi - complexity and credibility

See Andrew L. Urban's interview with director John Duigan


CAST: Jon Bon Jovi, Lambert Wilson, Barry Humphries, Anna Galiena, Thandie Newton

DIRECTOR: John Duigan

PRODUCER: Bertil Ohlsson & Paul Raphael

SCRIPT: Virginia Duigan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean Francois Robin

EDITOR: Humphrey Dixon


RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes




Jon Bon Jovi and Thandie Newton

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020