This debut feature of co-writer-director Dan Algrant was executive produced by his Columbia University film professor, Martin Scorsese, which accounts for the star-heavy cast. However, judging by the meandering, inconsequential result, Algrant's hardly the new Scorsese: at best, he's a
warmed-over Woody Allen for tiresome twenty-somethings.
A fledgling playwright just out of Harvard, Jake Briggs (Eric Stoltz) resists the lure of Broadway to stay in Cambridge, Mass. with his girlfriend Joanne (Mary-Louise Parker), an aspiring art photographer. Bits of Jake's past are revealed in scattered flashbacks: as a child, he was abandoned by
his father and left in the care of his dippy countercultural mom (Jill Clayburgh). His sexually confused best friend Chris (Ralph Macchio) is living in Manhattan, trying to succeed as an actor while shopping around Jake's plays between auditions. Chris finally gets a nibble from tough-but-honest
producer Carl (Tony Curtis), who agrees to back Jake's latest script on the condition that he come to New York to work on rewrites and production.
All goes well until Carl signs a "name" star for the lead, aging soap-opera diva Dana (Kathleen Turner), who's obviously wrong for the part. Dana promptly has Chris fired from the cast and replaced by her TV co-star (Chris Noth). Trying to win Jake over, she attempts to seduce him; meanwhile,
back in Cambridge, handsome, high-powered art gallery owner Elliot (Timothy Dalton) seems to be making a move on his employee Joanne. At a swanky Manhattan party, a drunken Chris comes on to Jake, who reacts by sleeping with Dana. The play's opening night turns into a nightmarish stampede of
walkouts. Disappointed but still hopeful, Jake returns to Cambridge and Joanne.
At one point, Jake's play is described as "badly structured, precious, self-indulgent, and too long"; Algrant might have been critiquing his own film. Episodic and aimless, NAKED barely runs 90 minutes, but feels much longer. Jake's character is at best a low-energy, 90s version of the
self-obsessed New York nebbish perfected by Woody Allen around the time of ANNIE HALL. The screenplay encompasses every possible cliche of "sensitive" coming-of-age pictures, lifting liberally from both THE GRADUATE and Francis Ford Coppola's YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW, while bidding for significance
with a few arty dream sequences and cutesy alienation effects (e.g., a talking chimpanze, voiced by David Johansen, who offers Jake advice on his love life). Beneath the labored farce, it's never made clear why Jake is worth an hour-and-a-half of anybody's time. Stoltz can do little with this
dull, unpleasant, and apparently untalented character, noteworthy only for the inexplicable devotion he inspires in everyone around him (except for novelist William Styron, playing himself, who wisely walks away from Jake at a party the moment he opens his mouth).
Still, with so many aces in the supporting cast, NAKED can't help but have some passably entertaining moments. Turner comes closest to injecting actual energy into the film, almost redeeming the caricature Algrant wrote. Curtis, who looks as trim and dapper as ever, also gives his character some
life and dimension. Among numerous big-name cameos, Griffin Dunne has an amusing moment as an auditioning actor-from-hell who just won't leave. Though not a "name" yet, Parker is appealing, and it's hard not to root for her to leave mopey Jake for Elliot, who has everything Jake lacks--not to
mention being played by James Bond. (Adult situtations, nudity, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: This debut feature of co-writer-director Dan Algrant was executive produced by his Columbia University film professor, Martin Scorsese, which accounts for the star-heavy cast. However, judging by the meandering, inconsequential result, Algrant's hardly the… (more)