Lure of the siren
Actress Liv Tyler hits the right notes in One Night at McCool’s
If there’s one thing that really chaps my hide (well, there’s a hell of a lot of things that do, but right now this one tops my list), it’s those movie trailers that not only give away the best money shots, but proceed in Cliff’s Notes fashion to condense an entire movie into a tidy two-minute package. If you’ve seen the preview for Joe Dirt, lemme tell ya, Bubba, you’ve seen the whole damn thing, minus such distractions as the slender plotline that serves as life support to the sight gags featured in the preview.
OK, bad example, knowing this could have saved more than a few folks seven bucks over at the local multiplex. But take the trailer for something like Cast Away, which diffuses any suspense over whether the Tom Hanks character gets off of the island, and your pure, undiluted movie-going pleasure has just had sand kicked in its eyes.
Another case in point is the preview for One Night at McCool’s, which not only proceeds to indulge in the aforementioned cinematic balloon popping, but also ups the ante by using the black comedy’s final gag as its own. Actually, to say my hide is chapped is being mild—my ass is effing steamed. If I hadn’t seen the spoiler in the trailer already, I most likely would have howled aloud at the film’s ultimate punch line.
Just the same, the telling of the joke here is as good as the payoff could have been in this Rashomon-styled noir comedy told from the respective points-of-view of a bartender (Matt Dillon), a lawyer (Paul Reiser) and a cop (John Goodman)—three men who, during the course of the film, have had their hearts torn out and, still beating, crushed in the grip of one red-haired femme fatale (Liv Tyler).
One night after closing a seedy dive bar called McCool’s, barkeep Randy (uh-huh) rescues what seems at first to be your ever-popular damsel in distress from the oily clutches of a Trans-Am-driving, pony-tail-sportin’ dirtbag (Andrew “Dice Clay” Silverstein). Her name is Jewel, and she proceeds to show her appreciation by fulfilling what is pretty much any male bartender’s wet-dream—taking him back to his shack and screwing his brains out. In this case, Randy should have settled for a quickie and saved some of that gray matter. He mighta’ caught a few red flags as he was being led by a certain organ into an ever-widening vortex of manipulation, mayhem, and murder.
Add his horndog cousin Carl the Lawyer and Detective Dehling into the Jewel-obsessed circle jerk, and we end up with Randy enlisting the services of a bingo-playing hitman (a bewigged Michael Douglas, looking for the first time uncannily like his old man) in a desperate attempt to restore some semblance of order to the smoking ruins of his life.
As any devotee of irony-drenched, hipster black comedy knows, all these divergent lines inevitably lead to a good old neo-retro tip o’ the hat to that maestro of mayhem, Sam Peckinpah (think Douglas’ character from Falling Down walking in on the climax of True Romance … with the Village People filling in for The King).
The premise of the movie, which is essentially There’s Something About Mary funneled through The Last Seduction, hinges on Tyler’s ability to hit the right notes as a siren, maintaining believability as she lures her three stalkers through a domestic gauntlet (all she really wants out of life, you know, is a home of her own … and a DVD player). The role seems Tyler-made for her (sorry). Worth the price of admission alone is her sudsy tribute to that fine visual tradition that skews the true meaning of auto-eroticism—the chippie/car ménage—spanning from Tawny Kitaen’s cat-crawl across the hood of a Jag in a Whitesnake video, all the way back to Jo Van Fleet’s iconoclastic turn as “truck washin’ babe” in Cool Hand Luke. If it’s all about mixing up a fornicatory stew, Tyler adds enough spice to separate One Night at McCool’s from all the other half-assed non-contenders in the recent glut of McBlack comedies.