4.0 out of 5 stars
One of my favorite movies now, Sept. 4 2003
This is a finely cast film with some terrific performances by the late James Coburn, Angelica Huston, and Mick Jagger. This is a stellar film. The plot is interesting and challenging, and the main character, played by Andy Garcia, is believable and really gives you a good look at the what if's given this kind of situation and really makes you ask what would you do.
The plot is simple. Good-looking, former ad agency hotshot turned writer, appropriately named Byron (Andy Garcia), has written and published his first book that, despite warm reviews, has ended up as a remainder. His second book has been rejected by his publisher. His supportive, stay at home wife, Dena (Juliana Margulies), and young child need him to bring home the bacon, so what is an aspiring young writer to do? He turns to a male escort service that has an office in the same building in which Byron has an office that he uses for his writing. Right away the film is engaging.
This escort service is deliciously run by Luthor Fox, which Faustian role is played with silken, Machiavellian overtones by Mick Jagger due to a bit of inspired casting. Luthor himself still dabbles in the field by servicing Jennifer, one of his original clients, played with sophisticated finesse by Angelica Huston. Byron is initially reluctant to do this sort of work, because he does love his wife, and because he seems to have some moral scruples.
Fortuitously for him, Byron's first assignment is to escort a coldly beautiful, young woman named Andrea, played with icy hauteur by the lovely Olivia Williams. Andrea just happens to be married to aging Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Tobias Alcott (James Coburn). Before Byron knows it, his moral scruples are blowing in the wind. It turns out that this assignment has him servicing both the Alcotts in ways he could never have imagined. Of course, his pact with the Alcotts has its short lived financial rewards, but its long term impact on his marriage, his writing career, and his psyche is another matter.
There are some juicy and memorable moments in the film. Tobias Alcott has a knack for entering his wife's room to chat, at just precisely the wrong moment. When Luthor decides to take his business arrangement with Jennifer to a new level, he gets an ego shattering surprise that has some cinematic interest. The scene at the end, when Byron realizes just where his pact with the Alcotts has led him, causing him to indulge in an act of vandalism is just what you think you would do if you were in his shoes.
Byron gets an advance on the book he is writing with famous author and gets a new house. Byron's disinclination to get a "respectable" job feeds the motivation to getting a job with the escort service as a last resort. His verbal pact with the crusty Tobias, regarding a collaborative writing effort leads you to believe he's gotten an advance from him and a sound basis for Byron getting a new house in a more upscale neighborhood and doing scads of shopping with Dena. Byron comes across as a guy down on his luck but very compassionate and therefore sympathetic. The character of Dena is very realistic, as Ms. Margulies is the sweetly trusting and supporting wife as some women can be because they want to believe the best about their husbands.
This film was very enjoyable, and personal to me. There was stellar performances from Mick Jagger, James Coburn, and Angelica Huston. Andy Garcia and Juliana Margulies are amazing in their roles, while Olivia Williams manages to hold her own in a challenged role. The movie builds the characters strongly and you are right there with them when they have to make their choices sitting on the edge of your seat, talking to the TV and crying along with the consequences and having so much hope for the characters. Not too often does a movie come along where I am actually caring for the roles. I highly recommend this film.