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  Dying Gaul, The Otherworldy Online
Year: 2005
Director: Craig Lucas
Stars: Patricia Clarkson, Campbell Scott, Peter Sarsgaard, Ryan Miller, Faith Jefferies, Robin Bartlett, Ebon-Moss Bachrach, Kelli O'Hara, Dee Dee Flores, Elizabeth Marvel, Bill Camp, Linda Emond
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Robert Sandrich (Peter Sarsgaard) is a screenwriter who is attending a meeting about his latest script with Hollywood producer Jeffrey Tishop (Campbell Scott). It's a drama about a gay couple, one of whom is dying of AIDS, and although Jeffrey wants to make this film, he wants some changes made. Couldn't the couple be a man and a woman instead of two men? Robert is very offended about this, and turns down the offer of a million dollars to see his pet project bastardised, but Jeffrey can be very persuasive - in more ways than one...

Before the Internet came along, characters in films would communicate with each other either by speaking face to face, or over the telephone. Maybe a letter or telegram would be sent, but if there was a dialogue the filmmakers wouldn't make a meal of showing the viewer every line being written, every letter posted, back and forth and so on. However, even though writer and director Craig Lucas sets his film in 1995, about the time when a lot of people became familiar with the Internet, the way his main character behaves you'd think it was some kind of mystical mystery with a link to the afterlife.

Robert is supposed to be an intelligent man, but he doesn't half act in a stupid, well, naive maybe, manner. Before that happens, you have half of an interesting film with an absorbing love triangle developing between the three leads. Jeffrey is bisexual, and although he loves his wife Elaine (Patricia Clarkson) he is keen to start an affair with Robert; the writer has just lost his partner to AIDS, so his script is very dear to him, and not only that but he feels guilt over the death of his loved one. At first Jeffrey is interested only in the sex, but you can pinpoint the exact scene where it all goes horribly wrong, and that would be the bit where Robert cries while receiving a (tastefully offscreen) handjob from Jeffrey.

Such a scene may well raise titters, but there's more to come (so to speak). Elaine begins to grow obsessed with Robert to the extent that she stalks him across the Internet, where Robert has given too much away about himself in the chatrooms he frequents by night. Elaine works out who he is and starts asking him personal questions to the extent that Robert believes she is actually the ghost of his dead partner communicating with him from beyond the grave via his computer. Really. Exactly how gullible you would have to be to accept this is not covered, but that's what we have to go with for the story to be convincing, and it's not, it's ridiculous. In fact, taking the tragic ending into account, Lucas seems to be working out his grudges against heterosexual couples by punishing characters for their non-gay urges, so I'm not sure quite who he's aiming this at apart from the terminally bitter. The most interesting aspect is that much of the music was written by Steve Reich.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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