The Dying Gaul

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Time Out says


BIZARRE LOVE TRIANGLE Sarsgaard, right, comes between a happily married couple.

Written after a sour moviemaking experience involving his Broadway hit Prelude to a Kiss, Craig Lucas's 1998 play The Dying Gaul was a poison-pen letter to Hollywood and its ability to drain creative talent dry. Six years later, Lucas hasn't lost any of his anger toward Tinseltown, and his directorial debut still comes off like a flipped bird to industry brass. "People don't go to the movies to feel bad or learn anything!" sneers the closeted bisexual executive (Scott) to the brilliant gay writer (Sarsgaard), whose semiautobiographical script the studio suit wants to buy. If the scribe changes the characters' homosexuality and sells out his principles for a million bucks, then the project gets the green light.

Like Lucas's original stage production, the film throws other topics into the pot, ranging from the divine implications of Internet chatrooms to an examination of the grieving process. Unfortunately, it also duplicates the play's mlange of muddy moral quandaries and degenerates into discordant white noise. Luckily, the performances nearly redeem the more preposterous plot turns, with Scott's seductive smarm-and-charm act and Patricia Clarkson's brittle take on the privileged spouse role breathing life into what could have been one-note caricatures. It's Sarsgaard, however, who owns the film; when he crams an entire emotional scale-run into one histrionic orgasm, you feel as if a good actor is becoming great before your very eyes.—David Fear

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