Many filmmakers in Hollywood hold true to the tenet that you have to grab the audience within the first five minutes of a film. However director Finn Taylor appeared to be creating an unconventional picture and to this effort I have to offer up my applause, because in those opening minutes he makes every attempt to drive away an audience. He begins with an uncharismatic character, paints him as moody and depressed after the death of his wife, and Taylor also has him dealing with his grief by indulging in spying on his neighbors before he is seen readying himself for a plunge from the tallest bridge.
Now, if the saga of a doleful and suicidal voyeur doesn’t have you lunging for the remote, Taylor offers one additional challenge to you, the viewer: this guy is played by David Arquette. Even those who are strong in character may at this time find their thumb hovering over the STOP button—I twice found myself pawing for the remote, with my dedication to this duty the only thing keeping me on board for the challenge. Now don’t get me wrong–like most everybody else I like the thought of David Arquette jumping off a bridge, but Taylor robs us of even this simple catharsis by having someone talk him out of the attempt.
Arquette plays Terry, a widower who assuages his depression by dropping his pants as he watches his neighbors through his binoculars, particularly the young couple across from his apartment who do not seem to have much use for clothing or draperies. Soon it all is too much for Terry to bear—the loss of his wife, his new depraved hobby, and the fact that he looks like that nut case from those idiotic phone commercials—so he climbs out on the ledge of the nearest span. Happening by at that very moment is Nick, a dude with a less than compelling palaver who takes a moment to explain to Terry the physics of deceleration trauma. Terry is actually surprised to hear that a fall from that height may be injurious, but he listens to him and soon comes down, probably having something to do with the fact that Nick and his girlfriend were Terry’s favorite visual targets.
In exchange for Terry’s watch Nick offers to provide him with pills so he can have a less messy departure from this mortal plane. On the way back to his apartment Nick explains that he has a fatal disease and does not have long for this Earth. With so much in common these two eventually fall into a plan where Terry agrees to help Nick live out his few remaining days with fun times funded with the cash from an insurance settlement, and at the end of the frivolity he will assist Terry in following through with his own demise. They strike out on the road and partake in some curious activities that would normally be considered sociopathic but may in fact become excusable when you consider these are people who have been stamped with an expiration date.
They drive the car on acid, pick up a couple of hookers, and break into a bowling alley so they can play ten-pins in the nude. Well three of them do, as Terry is a bit timid and stays in his nylon ensemble, and then says to one naked pleasure craft, “You must think I’m weird”. All she’s wearing is some used bowling shoes and he feels that he’s the flaky one? This guy has a way to go in order to recover, if you ask me. Next they have a string of family members to visit and then Nick and an old friend decide it would be a hoot to rob a bank. This endeavor as well is done in the nude—you know, to throw the tellers off. My take? You have to be pretty full of yourself to think that losing your khakis would be enough to make bank employees miss the color of your hair and how tall you were.
The sad truth is that this whole affair could have been an interesting diversion as a film with the exception of the unfortunate choice to cast Arquette as the lead. Whenever events played out that were moderately dynamic the camera would cut to David anew and you instantly think, “That’s the guy who was replaced in the AT&T ads with Carrot Top.” Carrot Top! This is not someone you balance the success of a movie upon; this is someone you ask to speed it up as you wait for them to count your change at the tollbooth. What made Finn Taylor make this misjudgment is anyone’s guess…except maybe Courtney Cox.
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