Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Ned Beatty
Director: Paul Schrader
An intriguing role for Woody Harrelson sees his character Carter Page III go to ultimate lengths to discover who he really is in this slow burning but interesting political pot-boiler.
Carter Page III is a conflicted man. With his own personality fighting against his strong Virginian roots, Page struggles with his homosexuality and the heavy weight of his late father’s public persona. It comes home to roost when he unwittingly gets caught up in his friend Lynn’s complicated private life. Lynn is the wife of a liberal senator, and when her lover is found murdered, any whiff of scandal must be kept away from them both for fear of damaging their political standing – at some cost to others. As a “walker,” squiring the wives of the rich and powerful to cultural events when their husbands aren’t around, Page is derided by those in the political arena. Will he let himself be the fall guy, or can he find a way around this situation as his friends begin to run out?
Kristin Scott Thomas is appropriate as senator’s wife Lynn Lockner, who could frost over a hot day. Indeed no warmth ever seems to emanate from the screen during Lockner and Page’s friendship, and Scott Thomas nervously licks her lips all the way through – does this betray a guilty conscience, show that there’s something going on beyond the icy exterior (or does she like the taste of her lip gloss)? Harrelson’s character is necessarily a lot warmer and he gathers the viewer’s sympathy as doors slam swiftly in his face. You may feel less sympathy for his slightly bouffant hairdo and tache straight out of a cheesy American 80s TV show, as he cavorts around to Bryan Ferry’s great 80s soundtrack (the film’s not set in the 80s – so your guess is as good as mine as to why this soundtrack’s there – but it’s good anyway).
There’s not really any mystery as to who the murderer is, and it’s not always easy to understand what the main characters are talking about but this doesn’t disturb the flow or focus of the film too much. Overall this is a slow burning, engrossing character portrait of a man conflicted who gives himself a tough test to work out who he really is, and whether he fits into the world he lives in. The film also paints an interesting portrait of political life.