The Guys

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The Guys

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The Guys

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If good intentions translated automatically into great art, then "We Are The World" would sound better than "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," Ann Landers would read better than James Joyce, and The Guys would supplant Lawrence Of Arabia. An adaptation of journalist Anne Nelson's play, one of the first artistic responses to the Sept. 11 attacks, The Guys does little to break out of the original's two-person-show construction and little to make what might have worked in the intimate setting of New York's Flea Theater work on film. Sigourney Weaver--who originated the role and is married to director and Flea Theater head Jim Simpson--stars as a journalist who, shortly after the 11th, volunteers to help a Brooklyn fire captain write eulogies for some of the men he lost in the attacks. Anthony LaPaglia plays the captain, and his performance alone almost makes the film worth seeing. A model of tasteful restraint and unspoken emotion, he gives a face to the many brave people whose acclaim as heroes has threatened to rob them of their individuality. That's more or less the film's mission, as well, and as such, it's far from a total failure. At heart a dramatic equivalent of The New York Times' remarkable "Portraits Of Grief" eulogies, The Guys offers a reminder of the stories behind the body count, including their cruel endings. But in spite of some affecting moments, the film never quite works. It's too theatrical, perhaps unavoidably, and at moments it attempts to balance LaPaglia's great personal loss with Weaver's post-Sept. 11 anxiety, which the ledger sheet of human experience just doesn't allow. It also already feels like a period piece. Since the first staging of The Guys, the shock has worn off, and many other works of art have grappled with Sept. 11. An act of comfort provoked by immediate need, The Guys already plays like a work whose moment has passed.

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