The Dying Gaul
We wanted to like The Dying Gaul. And, indeed, we did like many things about the film. The acting was superb. Campbell Scott portrayed Jeffrey—the despicable, but charming studio exec—with aplomb. Patricia Clarkson's scene-stealing performance as Elaine (Jeffrey's wife) was worth the price of admission alone. Peter Sarsgaard is believable as the lovelorn, tortured writer which changes Elaine and Jeffrey's lives forever.
Set in mid-90s Hollywood, the movie explores the moral and social implications of selling out and sleeping with your boss. The closeted, but sexually promiscuous Jeffrey seduces Robert (Sarsgaard) in more ways than one. After convincing Robert to rewrite his story, Jeffrey relentlessly pursues Robert. The vulnerable Jeffrey acquiesces. Robert then invites him on family, business and social outings, much to the chagrin of his wife Elaine. Though initially in the dark, she finds out the truth soon enough. She then takes to the internet and seeks retribution in a way that belies her angelic screen name. This is when the movie takes on a Hitchcock or David Lynch air.
The Dying Gaul is unapologetic in its disdain for Hollywood, though the focus is more on its "denizens" than the city itself. Elaine and Robert's marriage is a lot like their house—grandiose and beautiful, but ultimately empty. But Elaine is far from a trophy wife. She proves to be Robert's match in intellect and cunning. Clarkson's performance is what ultimately saves the film.
So what didn't we like? We found the ending unnecessarily dark and abrupt. So much so that it's really not worth the time and emotional investment. But anyone who enjoys a psychological thriller or a good Hitchcock movie, would likely appreciate the twists and turns. Just make sure you make time to grab a chocolate sunday afterwards. You'll need something to cheer you up.
Our grade: B-