The Dying Gaul

Acclaimed playwright Craig Lucas' directing debut is a flawlessly acted adaptation of his own stage play, a cruel tale of Hollywood that veers between the lurid and the mystical with reckless, sometimes thrilling abandon. Struggling screenwriter Robert Sandrich (Peter Sarsgaard) is selling his first script, and he's about to toss his soul into the bargain....read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Acclaimed playwright Craig Lucas' directing debut is a flawlessly acted adaptation of his own stage play, a cruel tale of Hollywood that veers between the lurid and the mystical with reckless, sometimes thrilling abandon. Struggling screenwriter Robert Sandrich (Peter Sarsgaard) is selling his first script, and he's about to toss his soul into the bargain. Robert has wowed Hollywood producer Jeffrey (Campbell Scott) with "The Dying Gaul," a deeply personal screenplay about a gay couple facing the specter of AIDS that is largely based on the agonizing death of Robert's late lover, Malcolm. But there is one small condition: Would Robert mind changing the sex of one of his characters? Robert is horrified but desperately needs the $1 million check Jeffrey is waving in front of his face, so he caves in to both Jeffrey's changes and his sexual advances. The advances come as something of a shock to Robert, who has befriended Robert's lovely wife, Elaine (Patricia Clarkson), a frustrated writer who spends most of her day swimming and watching her housekeeper watch her two kids. Elaine seems genuinely touched by Robert's recent tragedy and intrigued by his Buddhist bent. After he confesses his penchant for cruising gay Internet chat rooms, she logs on using the persona of a gay man who's also recently lost a lover. She begins to pump him for personal information, and is surprised when Robert confesses that he actually helped Malcolm to die. She's even more surprised when he admits to carrying on an affair with a married business acquaintance whom she has no doubt is her own husband. Betrayed by both her husband and her new friend, Elaine maintains a cool exterior, hires a private detective to gather information about Robert and Malcolm, and then exacts her cruel revenge by returning to the chat room and convincing Robert that he's instant-messaging his dead lover. When it comes to his career, Lucas really has very little to complain about: Whatever his studio troubles, he did get an unexpurgated version of his groundbreaking AIDS screenplay Longtime Companion produced — with then up-and-coming Campbell Scott in a lead, no less — way back in 1990. But Hollywood doesn't seem to be his real target here — he's after the hypocrites who get rich in the industry while moaning about the crap it churns out. Exchanging Buddhist mantras like diet tips, they thoughtlessly destroy themselves after destroying each other.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Acclaimed playwright Craig Lucas' directing debut is a flawlessly acted adaptation of his own stage play, a cruel tale of Hollywood that veers between the lurid and the mystical with reckless, sometimes thrilling abandon. Struggling screenwriter Robert San… (more)

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