September 25, 2002 12:54pm EST
After Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) a mentally disturbed woman who mutilates her body takes a typing course she goes looking for a job and is immediately lucky. Lawyer E. Edward Grey (James Spader) obviously not very demanding hires her as typist in his shabby and not very busy office. Grey is immediately annoyed with the errors in Lee's letters. Fortunately Lee has the support of her overly protective mother Joan (Lesley Ann Warren) and devoted boyfriend Peter ( Jeremy Davies) another loser with parents proud of his job at J.C. Penney's. But Lee and Edward both recovering from nervous breakdowns develop a sadomasochistic relationship which has the duo enjoying spanking and masturbatory sessions at the office. Lee grows so fond of the abuse that she purposefully makes mistakes to provoke Edward. Eventually Lee realizes that she doesn't love Peter and she and Edward acknowledge the perversity that binds them.
Gyllenhaal is charmless as Lee; the very talented Spader seeming to want to carry on with the Bud Cort banner is wasted in his role as lawyer Grey; Davies usually interesting in a variety of offbeat roles here phones in his familiar goofiness as the boyfriend; and Warren who triumphed as the slutty gang moll in Victor/Victoria has absolutely nothing to do here as Lee's overbearing mother.
Writer/director Steven Shainberg favors meaningless close-ups tacky sets and settings lugubrious and phony characters and lame material all around. He fails to make kinkiness amusing his characters compelling or his story dynamic.
Two friends (Jon Cryer and Rick Stear) find out that their missing high-school chum (Rafael Baez) is now insane and living at New York's decaying Coney Island amusement park. Naturally the guys ditch work and set out in search of their bud and spend an inordinate amount of time wandering around the ramshackle landmark talking to a weirdo skeeball guy (Frank Whaley). Over time one guy confronts his own alcoholism and the other deals with family problems. Oh yeah and they find their nutty friend.
This one's got a lot of indie cred: Whaley and Ione Skye have been doing the little-movie thing for years now and Cryer is a veteran of Schenkman's "Pompatus." The best performance is from Baez an up-and-coming actor whose depiction of mental illness (not an easy thing to do) is pretty disturbing.
This is the latest from Richard Schenkman best known for the equally talky and lethargic "The Pompatus of Love " which also was about guys in their 30s (finally) confronting adulthood. Schenkman's style of writing a directing is slow introspective and ultimately more suited to the confines of a small theater stage than the camera lens.