Saturday, November 15, 2008

Film Review: HIGH SPIRITS (1988, Neil Jordan)

Stars: 2 of 5.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Peter O' Toole, Steve Guttenberg, Jennifer Tilly, Peter Gallagher, Liam Neeson, Beverly D'Angelo, Darryl Hannah.
Tag-line: " He's an American. She's a ghost. Vacation romances are always a hassle."
Worst one-liner(s): "No respectable ghost would live in California!" OR "I'm dead. So this is what it feels like. Like a hangover." OR "You're a ghost, I'm an American. It would never work out." OR "I mean I know you like passive women, Jack, but she's dead!"
Only good line, courtesy of Peter O'Toole: "What is going on here? Eamon? Why are chunks of masonry floating about?"

Neil Jordan. Director of THE CRYING GAME and MONA LISA. Hell, let's stick INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE up there, too. This cast. Peter O'Toole, one of the finest actors of all time. Steve Guttenberg, one of the most infectiously fun American comedy actors of the 80's. Darryl Hannah with an Irish brogue that kinda flits in and out. Solid actors like Liam Neeson, Beverly D'Angelo, and Peter Gallagher in the small roles that most comedies don't even attempt to cast with quality. A creepy mansion comedy of manners in the vein of CLUE. All these things should add up to something that's at least watchable.

I wanted to like this movie. I wanted to like it SO MUCH. I love questionable cinema of the 1980's. I love the Gute. I love Irishmen. I AM an Irishman. I love Peter O'Toole. He's one of the greatest drunks of all time, and he's in a movie called "High Spirits!" This is the guy who once went for a drink in Paris and woke up in Corsica. The guy who went on a bender with Michael Caine, and when they awoke, Caine asked 'What time is it?' 'Never mind what time it is, what fucking day is it?!,' O'Toole replied, and sure enough it was two days later. Now, O'Toole is obviously wasted for real for the duration of this film, which is the only reason this earned two stars.

He's even drinking with Guttenberg in one scene. I should love this. But dammit, there's not enough O'Toole and Gute. There's somehow too much, AND not enough. Instead, we get smacked over the head with a parade of some of the worst forced laughs in film history. The film is trying SO HARD to wring a laugh from me here and there, and I am trying SO HARD to love it, and somehow ne'er the twain shall meet. That makes me sad, and it makes me exhausted. Worth a rent only if you fast-forward between all the O'Toole drinking scenes.

-Sean Gill

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