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A stagy, three-person psychodrama about guilt, memory and manipulation, driven by strong performances. The night before 28-year-old John's (Robert Sean Leonard) first film is to play the Lansing [MI] Film Festival, he plans to have dinner with his old friend, Vince (Ethan Hawke). Best buds in high school, Vince and John pretend they're still tight, but their...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A stagy, three-person psychodrama about guilt, memory and manipulation, driven by strong performances. The night before 28-year-old John's (Robert Sean Leonard) first film is to play the Lansing [MI] Film Festival, he plans to have dinner with his old friend, Vince (Ethan Hawke). Best buds in high school, Vince and John pretend they're still tight, but their lives have diverged dramatically. The scruffy Vince is a low-level dope dealer and part-time volunteer firefighter (mostly because he's the fire chief's connection), while sleek aspiring-filmmaker John is moving up in the world. Beneath the jovial, "Hey, man, wassup" small talk, it quickly becomes clear that John thinks Vince is an irresponsible slacker, while Vince thinks John has turned into a high-and-mighty snob. And then there's the matter of Amy (Uma Thurman), Vince's high-school sweetie. After Amy and Vince broke up in senior year, Johnny put the moves on her. Though they quickly parted ways, the relationship drove a largely unacknowledged wedge between Vince and John. As they kill time in Vince's rundown motel room, Vince reveals a secret agenda: He wants to talk about Amy — who's now an assistant district attorney in Lansing — and, more specifically, he wants to talk about the night he believes John raped her. John denies the accusation. Vince persists. John wavers, and Vince maintains that if John were to take a good, hard look at himself, he'd realize that he owes Amy an apology. As the conversation shifts from trivial guy talk to badgering and bitter recrimination, the fault lines in their moral fiber and their relationship with each other are laid bare. Then they're joined by Amy, whom Vince has surreptitiously invited to stop by, and the dissection of the past takes a perplexing turn: What did happen that night, and what does it reveal about all of them? Adapted from Stephen Belber's one-act play, the film was shot in six days on digital video. The action is confined to a single set and atmosphere is appropriately claustrophobic, but the image quality is harsh and flat. This accentuates the oppressive meanness of Vince's hotel room, but makes for some unpleasant viewing. This project, shot while director Richard Linklater's WAKING LIFE was in post-production, was very much a family affair: It was the fourth time Hawke and Linklater collaborated (Hawke brought the play to Linklater's attention), Thurman is Hawke's wife, and Hawke and Leonard worked together on DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989).

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A stagy, three-person psychodrama about guilt, memory and manipulation, driven by strong performances. The night before 28-year-old John's (Robert Sean Leonard) first film is to play the Lansing [MI] Film Festival, he plans to have dinner with his old frie… (more)

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