The Guys

Originally a one-act play that debuted at lower Manhattan's 80-seat Flea Theater, this moving, two-character drama was conceived as an immediate response to the deaths of nearly 3000 people — 343 of them New York City firefighters — at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. A modest, no-frills production powered by the emotional truth of Columbia...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Originally a one-act play that debuted at lower Manhattan's 80-seat Flea Theater, this moving, two-character drama was conceived as an immediate response to the deaths of nearly 3000 people — 343 of them New York City firefighters — at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. A modest, no-frills production powered by the emotional truth of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism professor Anne Nelson's real-life experience helping a grief-stricken fire captain write a series of eulogies for his fallen men, the play makes a smooth transition to the screen. The initial idea was to produce a play that would not only reflect the feelings of New Yorkers in the aftermath of devastation, but would also draw an audience to the Flea Theater; located just blocks from the raw desolation of Ground Zero, the small playhouse was in danger of going dark for good. In a stroke of serendipity, artistic director Jim Simpson met Nelson and, at his behest, she turned her experiences into a theater piece. Directed by Simpson and performed by a revolving, high-profile cast that included Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Anthony LaPaglia, Bill Murray and Simpson's wife, Sigourney Weaver, the play struck a deep chord with audiences, particularly firefighters who saw it as a fitting tribute to their lost brothers and sisters. Simpson also directed the film, and Weaver and LaPaglia reprise their respective roles as Upper West Side-journalist Joan and Nick, the captain of a New York City ladder company who suddenly finds himself faced with the terrible task of having to deliver eulogies for eight of his men whose bodies had still not been recovered from the debris. Acting as much like a therapist as a ghost writer, Joan offers to help Nick sift through his feelings about the men he lost, and though she at first shies away from confronting the disaster head-on, is finally able to articulate her own feelings of rage, grief and helplessness. Both Weaver and LaPaglia do some marvelous work and, with the exception of a spell-breaking flight of fancy in which Joan imagines herself in an impromptu tango with Nick, Simpson's instincts as a stage director serve him well on the film's small canvas. The strength of both the play and the film lies in their simplicity; rather than attempting to situate the World Trade Center disaster in a larger historical or political context, it simply and eloquently articulates the tangled feelings of particular New Yorkers deeply touched by an unprecedented tragedy.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Originally a one-act play that debuted at lower Manhattan's 80-seat Flea Theater, this moving, two-character drama was conceived as an immediate response to the deaths of nearly 3000 people — 343 of them New York City firefighters — at the World Trade Cent… (more)

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