Jarv’s Birthday Series Redux: Gossip (2000)
The 21st Century really has been a bloody toil to get through. Were it not that the 1990’s contains lots of awesome, then I’d be sorely considering binning this series or putting it into some kind of Droid-stylee extended hypersleep. Anyway, the second last of this terrible run (honourable exception to Hable con Ella) is 2000’s Gossip, an utterly banal, predictable and tiresome effort; a thriller that fails to thrill, an intrigue film with no intrigue, and another crap effort in the list of crap that Kate Hudson has inflicted on the world. I honestly have almost nothing of any interest to say about this, because it’s just so utterly mundane, but I promise that I will do my best.
Contains a ridiculously convoluted, improbable and laughable ending and spoilers below.
Released on 25th August in the UK, Gossip had what was at the time a promising cast. James Marsden, Kate Hudson, Lena Headey and Joshua Jackson feature heavily, but this overly elaborate effort wastes what talent the cast have. Headey plays Jones, a terrible, smug, parasite who mooches around with Marsden’s overprivileged dickhead Derrick and Norman Reedus’ laughably drawn talent-vacuum of an art student Travis.
After a ridiculously stagey scene in a class on “gossip” and how it doesn’t matter, Jones takes offence to something posh girl Naomi (Hudson) does. Incidentally, do American colleges actually have lecture courses as pointless as the ones that often feature in films- seriously, I can think of loads such as the lecture on Gossip here, or the Urban Legends nonsense in, er, Urban Legend? Mind you, in my first year at University I did a classics module on ancient Greek pottery, purely because I knew that we’d spend hours studying depictions of porn, so I can hardly talk.
Right, where was I? Oh, yes, having dismissed Professor Godwin’s (Eric Bogosian) concerns over gossip as being “only words”, our dastardly trio decide to spread a rumour that good girl Naomi gave up her cherry to her boyfriend (Joshua Jackson). The film deals with the spiralling implications of this initial rumour as it travels at the speed of lie across the student body. Starting with elaborate sex, it passes out through threesome and, as she can’t remember the event, it culminates in her accusing him of date rape.
This desperately wants to be the type of film where everyone’s motives are suspect and all is not what it seems. The script is trying to play a game of find the queen with the audience, but it simply just doesn’t work because every beat in the film is too god damned obvious. There were a good few films at the time that attempted this, some like Tim Roth’s underrated Liar work it well, whereas when it goes wrong, as it does here, we’ve got an elaborate and monumentally tedious parlour trick to sit through. The problem here is twofold: firstly, the characters aren’t properly drawn: Jones is a human cliché as is Naomi, Derrick is cocky and shitty, but at the same time likeable and generous, while I fail to see why Travis is even in the fucking movie. The machinations of the script operate with Derrick as the villain: the scumbag with the hidden secret in his past, but the film makes a handful of serious missteps that I’ll come to in a moment. Marsden, for his part, has the charm to play the sleaze merchant, but he doesn’t have the sense of vengeance, and there’s no feeling that he could put together a long-term payback scheme like this one. He’s fine with the hedonism, but rubbish with the evil. Headey, on the other hand, is doubly hamstrung- her character is the viewer’s eye into the events of the film, but she’s, at the same time, supposed to be a major player- and this is where the problems lie: Here come the spoilers.
The ending, which is a clear twist, is a disaster. The point of a twist ending is to force the audience to look at the events of the film, and to see them and the characters in a new light. Where it works well, such as with the 6th Sense, the film springs an elaborate trap and gains a dimension. However, it’s a gamble, because there has to be some clue that the twist is approaching- and here it doesn’t work. Derrick is outed fairly early on in the film as having been accused of rape by Naomi. This, while never proved, is an appalling accusation, and as such has driven him out of town. The question that the film should hinge on is did he or didn’t he do it?
Which is where the failure comes in, it’s flaming obvious that he did do it. It’s so flaming that I half expect to see Red Adair with a bucket looking to put the fucker out. Furthermore, the film makes matters hugely worse by basically having every single major (and most minor) character in on a ludicrously elaborate scheme to make him pay some kind of price for his sin. There’s an instant fix to this film, incidentally, in that it ends with Travis spitting back Derrick’s earlier dialogue about it being “only words”. As such, the fix is simple, and this is what I would have done:
It makes no sense for the rape to have taken place. The film is clearly about the power of gossip, and the destructive potential of rumour. Therefore, what I would have done, had I written it, would be to have left the first 3/4 intact. Derrick is a clear scumbag and attempting greater and greater measures to evade justice. He does protest his innocence constantly, but nobody believes him, probably because he’s an obvious cunt. The climax on the rooftop takes place after a scene between him and Naomi- revealing that he started the rumour to get revenge for the initial accusation that had him run out of town. This scene doesn’t work and has no business being in the film- because the two characters are alone in the room: if he were a rapist, then he would have no compunction about saying “I fucked you then, and I’m fucking you now” or some such. As he’s still denying it, even when it doesn’t benefit him, it strikes me as disingenuous for him to suddenly blurt the lot at the climax to be conveniently taped. As such, I’d have had him accused, and maintaining his innocence over the initial rape and the murder of Naomi, before screaming something like “what do you want? I did it, OK” then, wracked with guilt over the death of his best friend and true love, jumping. However, the reveal immediately after his confession that Naomi isn’t dead, and that everyone was in on extracting the truth would remain intact. Until an epilogue implicating the whole thing as horseshit orchestrated by Naomi and Jones. Maybe they are angry lesbians or something. I’m not sure on the details, but I’d certainly have had him as the victim of the film- because it doesn’t make sense otherwise.
Overall, this is a polished film with fundamental problems at story and script level. The reveal takes place far too early, and the motivations of the main characters are muddled and annoying at best. The ending itself is a boring miasma of confusion that doesn’t endear the film to the average viewer, and as such I’m not recommending this in a million years. When you add in that Marsden singularly lacks the sense of dangerous charisma for the role- being a spoiled preppy dick but not a monster, it makes the whole movie unbalanced, leaving a serious case of the “who cares” for the viewer. The model here should have been The Last Seduction, but it was utterly cocked up, and as such Gossip is a failure. I give it one big mouth out of a possible 4, and am going to go back to forgetting that it even exists.
Next up is the last Almodovar, the utterly awful All About My Mother.
The Full List for the Birthday Series Redux:
- 2011- The Skin I Live In (2.5 out of 4)
- 2010- The Last Exorcism (2.5 out of 4)
- 2009- Post Grad (1 out of 4)
- 2008- The House Bunny (1 out of 4)
- 2007- Knocked Up (1 out of 4)
- 2006- Volver (1 out of 4)
- 2005- Red Eye (2 out of 4)
- 2004- Dead Clowns (Orangutan of Doom)
- 2003- Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (1 out of 4)
- 2002- Talk to Her (4 out of 4)
- 2001- Jeepers Creepers (2 out of 4)
- 2000- Gossip (1 out of 4)
- 1999- All About My Mother
- 1998- The X-Files
- 1997- Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
- 1996- The Last Supper
- 1995- The Usual Suspects
- 1994- The Color of Night
- 1993- Surf Ninjas
- 1992- The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag
- 1991- Pump Up the Volume
- 1990- Wild at Heart
- 1989- Bull Durham
- 1988- Crossing Delancey
- 1987- The Big Easy
- 1986- Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
- 1985- Better off Dead
- 1984- Oxford Blues
- 1983- MetalStorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
- 1982- The Thing
- 1981- Honky Tonk Freeway
- 1980- Schock
- 1979- Rich Kids
- 1978- Coma