Final Analysis (1992)

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She chooses he who must choose her. San Francisco psychologist Isaac Barr (Richard Gere) is treating Diana Baylor (Uma Thurman) for OCD and she tells him of her particularly vivid dreams and difficult childhood. When he talks with her sister, Heather (Kim Basinger), about their troubled upbringing, he finds his attentions shifting away from his patient. Heather comes on to him, and he falls head over heels, leading to a secret affair complicated by Heather’s violently jealous Greek gangster husband, Jimmy (Eric Roberts). But the complications don’t end there, as Heather may or may not need some serious psychological help herself when she kills her husband while under the influence of alcohol ... Did any of these eighty-seven patients beat their spouses to death? You could make the case for this as an elaborate play on Hitchcockiana, particularly Vertigo, with actresses called Kim getting frisky in San Francisco; or it’s a discourse on the narrative aspects of Freud;  or it’s about the impact of child abuse; and the condition of pathological intoxication discussed here and occasionally induced when some of us watch Gere, never mind when Heather imbibes just one sip of alcohol. And it’s all of these things, together with another nod to Hitch with some great hairdos, numbering a brilliant frightwig for Paul Guilfoyle as District Attorney Mike O’Brien which he doesn’t sport in court, just in shadowy offices. And what about that fabulously phallic lighthouse!  Or you could just say that this is what it is – outrageously fun entertainment with Basinger showing us a huge range in a really great role from cowering terrified wife to deranged gun-wielding murderess. Screenwriter Wesley Strick (remember him?) based his premise on an idea by forensic psychiatrist Robert H. Berger (there were rewrites by TV comedy writer Susan Harris) and it’s directed by Phil Joanou who has made a brilliantly overwrought thriller with a stunningly multi-referential finale. Crazy good with atmospheric photography by Jordan Cronenweth whose final film this was. Sometimes a violet is just a violet

Happy 70th Birthday Richard Gere 31st August 2019!

 

If Richard Gere is 70 years old, where does that leave the rest of us? Good grief! Musician, dancer, actor, humanitarian, the world’s most famous Buddhist after his chum the Dalai Lama, the love object of most women over the age of 35, he’s never been the easiest guy for film critics to love. That’s because of his perceived narcissism, a kind of enigmatic quality, as if that wasn’t the first requirement for a performer:  other than having to move, he seems to do nothing much in a scene, except for that tic with his eyes every so often. It is of course all to do with a particular kind of male beauty and affect that screams Movie Star. When he really lets loose, it comes as a surprise, which is why he seemed stuck in people’s minds in permanent American Gigolo mode, as though wearing clothes and projecting a tragic LA ennui were his greatest talent – even after he went crazy in Breathless, did understated so well in The Honorary Consul, was to the manner born in The Cotton Club and even went Biblical with King David. Those Eighties films are completely underrated, principally due to critical misperceptionsHe had inherited his first great roles from John Travolta’s rejections but went on to show his romantic and humorous sides before he could be truly sinister in the brilliant Internal Affairs. Since then he has continued to reveal a large palette of characters and his true hair colour. Above all, he has grace and mystery. And he gives great face. Happy birthday Richard Gere. Love ya loads. Have done, for a long time now. X

American Gigolo (1980)

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A romantic drama about a male prostitute. Well it would have to be the beautiful Richard Gere at the peak of his masculinity in every sense – he was the first star to be photographed full frontal. Then of course a decade later he would play the man hiring the whore in Pretty Woman – not that my three year old cousin whose fave movie that was had the remotest idea. Paul Schrader’s fantasy about procurement, licentious behaviour and surfaces plays remarkably well these days. Gere is Julian Kaye, the high class multilingual (quiet there at the back) gigolo who usually works for an elegant procuress, Anne (Nina van Pallandt) sleeping with rich older women and squiring widows about town. He takes a job as a favour for street pimp Leon (Bill Duke) which turns into a very rough trick in Palm Springs and days later he’s had a murder pinned on him. Detective Hector Elizondo pretty much knows it’s not him but has to go after him anyhow. In the interim Julian has fallen for an unhappily married politician’s wife Michelle Stratton (model Lauren Hutton) and finds himself untouchable. That’s the big irony in this cool and observant film about narcissism and control. It became famous for two things – the Blondie song in the title sequence (Call Me)  which is reworked into thematic sequences and the montage in which Julian picks out his wardrobe – all Armani. The abstract images for the sex sequences particularly between Gere and Hutton seem to crystallise emotional detachment but the final image in which Julian perversely finds freedom in prison with Michelle on the other side of a window is pure Bresson. He rescues her and she saves him right back. Very interesting indeed and a key reason for Gere’s superstardom after the studio wanted Christopher Reeve and John Travolta turned it down – as he did many roles which then fell in Gere’s capacious lap…

The Benefactor (2015)

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What a fascinating premise:  eccentric philanthropist Franny (Richard Gere) kills his best friends with a hug (you have to be there) and five years later he’s turned into Howard Hughes in his Philly mansion, long-haired, morphine-addicted and a recluse. Except for rare visits to the children’s hospital he built in his friends’ memory. Their pregnant daughter Poodles (Dakota Fanning) calls him out of the blue to get her doctor hubby Luke (Theo James) a job. He does more than that. He cleans up, says to Luke ‘Jesus you are gorgeous!’ (Richard Gere thinks another man is gorgeous!) and sets them up for life, even buying back the home Poodles grew up in so her baby will live there. He takes over every facet of their existence. This promises so much more than it delivers, with Franny a guilt-ridden junkie keen to make up for the past and try in some ways to do it better. Gere does a lot with an intriguing character but director Andrew Renzi’s screenplay doesn’t go all the perverse and sinister way that it teasingly threatens.

Time Out of Mind (2015)

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NYC is a frightening place, especially the first time you spend there, but I’ve rarely seen anything to equal Richard Gere urinating in the street. He exults in the disgust of a man castigating him for it, calling him an animal. Oren Moverman’s commitment to the real meant that cameras were hidden as George (Gere) went around, camouflaged in beanies and anoraks, apparently aimlessly, drifting, while the denizens do what they do to the homeless in a terrifying cacophonous din that has for the viewer the dramatic affect of tinnitus. We see George going from homeless shelter to subway, hungry, begging, experiencing the death-defying bureaucracy along the way that would drive a fine mind crazy with frustration:  he has no ID, no paperwork to get more paperwork that would get him a bed, food vouchers, comfort. Sometimes he follows a young woman (Jena Malone) who it transpires is his daughter, who disowns him. At eighty minutes into the running time he finally tells his newfound Bellevue Hospital friend (Ben Vereen) the cataclysmic series of unfortunate events that has led to him having a life on the streets. A chance reunion with trolley lady Sheila (Kyra Sedgwick) enlightens us as to how he is thrown out of an apartment at the story’s opening. Gere is very moving.  He is frequently on the edge, crying, upset and he is very touching in the role, inasmuch as the writing allows, but his character is somewhat enigmatic. There is a resolution, of a sort, in keeping with the demands of the medium. Even Ken Loach has to permit that and this is a film that is redolent of that approach. But this is far from an easy watch. Moverman and Jeffrey Caine wrote the screenplay, developed from Caine’s story. Maybe we can all have more understanding of street people as a result.

Autumn in New York (2000)

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A millennial take on Love Story, maybe, in this tale of womanizing restaurateur Will (Richard Gere) who falls for terminally ill hat designer Charlotte (Winona Ryder) who’s young enough to be his daughter – and then his actual illegitimate daughter (Vera Farmiga) shows up pregnant. He fathered Vera while cheating  on Winona’s late mom so Winona’s grandma Dolly (Elaine Stritch, love her, obviously!) does not approve. Oh what a tangled intergenerational web we weave when we screw around … The cynical might say that it’s odds on Winona dies before Vera gives birth, but I couldn’t say. JK Simmons shows up to perform life-saving surgery so what do you think? Richard can do no wrong, Winona was our It Girl and still is despite that career-halting shopping trip and NYC looks beautiful.