- Hacking a sprawling, 150-page, Short Cuts-esque survey of ’80s Los Angeles—based on a novel by Bret Easton Ellis, who co-scripted with Nicholas Jarecki—into a 98-minute movie that feels simultaneously undernourished and three hours long
- Squandering a first-rate ensemble of veteran actors (Mickey Rourke, Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Chris Isaak) by focusing mostly on the vacant young things (Jon Foster, Austin Nichols, Lou Taylor Pucci) who tend to overpopulate Ellis’ novels, too
- Testing the will of even the most ardent Ellis apologists, including Ellis, whose ambivalence clouded the film’s virtually nonexistent publicity tour
Defenders: Director Gregor Jordan, and actors Jon Foster and Lou Taylor Pucci.
Tone of commentary: Earnest and informative from Jordan, stoned-esque from Foster and Pucci. It would be wrong to speculate that real-life roomies Foster and Taylor were under the influence, but their Beavis and Butt-head act, punctuated by random laughing fits, makes a lively counterpoint to Jordan’s straightforward making-of material. The actors’ voices and attitudes are nearly impossible to tell apart, which makes the routine even funnier. A couple of examples: After Jordan speaks thoughtfully about the perils of “telling all of your secrets” on a commentary track, one of the actors chimes in, “Yeah, I find it retarded!” When Jordan notes the comedic juxtaposition of serving sushi at a wake in the Beverly Hilton, the other actor recalls, “I wanted some of that sushi soooo badly.” Foster and Taylor also weigh in thoughtfully on Winona Ryder’s “big-eyed look,” the frequent nude scenes (“everybody’s banging each other in this film”), a prop Rourke used for a child-kidnapping scene (“that is the coolest lollipop I’ve ever seen in my life!”), a full-frontal shot of a naked rock star (“didn’t you have to CGI-block his dick?”), and the sleek texture of Amber Heard’s body (“I don’t think hair even grows on her, except for her head”).
What went wrong: In cutting Ellis and Jarecki’s script from 150-160 pages down to 100 pages, an entire subplot involving vampires was lost, and many more scenes were deleted later when, in Jordan’s words, “the first cut was so bleak that it felt beyond devastating.” (The answer to the latter problem: The climactic scene was replaced by a more hopeful montage sequence, and another scene was added to help the audience out by basically spelling out the themes in the dialogue.) Under budgetary restrictions, Jordan and his producers were forced to have Argentina and Uruguay stand in for ’80s Los Angeles; even then, a few stars didn’t want to take the flight overseas, including Thornton, who’s “got his band.” The biggest problem with shooting in South America? A notable paucity of blonde extras.
Comments on the cast: A lot of sweet tributes to late actor Brad Renfro, whose troubled character in The Informers mirrored his offscreen problems to a degree all three men find eerily apropos. Outside of that, Foster and Pucci have fun teasing each other (Pucci: “I just saw Jon’s wiener sock!”), Jordan notes the rewards of working around Basinger’s refusal to do rehearsals, and all three stand in awe of Rourke’s commitment to bizarrely specific character details. On his first appearance: “Where’s Mickey’s orange soda? Didn’t he insist on orange soda for this scene?”
Inevitable dash of pretension: Ruminating on the tragic fate of insatiable sexpot Heard, Jordan shoots for profundity: “A beautiful girl dying of AIDS. It’s so ironic.”
Commentary in a nutshell: One of the actors, signing off as the closing credits roll: “Hey, we didn’t even take a pee break!”