by Tony Medley
The filmmakers said that “we
gave the script to all the studios around town and told them that we had
William H. Macy starring and David Mamet writing and Stuart Gordon
directing and they all said, ‘Great! We’ll read it this weekend,’ and
never heard from them again.” Maybe, just maybe, there was a reason why
they never heard from them again.
Director Stuart Gordon says,
“We are all racists. I am continually shocked and amazed at the words
that fly out of my own mouth when someone cuts me off in traffic. We try
to hide our racism from each other and from ourselves. But we secretly
know It’s alive and well within us.”
Gordon is an admirer of
Michael Moore, calling “Bowling for Columbine” (2002) “brilliant.”
Others have called it a polemic replete with factual inaccuracies.
“Edmond” is a film where everyone involved seems smitten with sending a
political message about what they feel is wide spread white racism.
Maybe all the people involved with this movie are racist; I have no way
of knowing. But it’s a mistake to paint everyone with the same brush.
Edmond (Macy) leaves his wife
for no reason other than that he doesn’t love her and feels he is in the
“wrong place” in his life, something he’s been told by a soothsayer. So
he just walks out with the clothes on his back.
As unrealistic as this is,
what follows is sheer fantasy. Edmond is around 46-years-old, but never
has there been a more naïve man wandering around the streets of Los
Angeles. To present a character as ingenuous is one thing. It apparently
worked in “Forrest Gump” (1994). But to present a seemingly successful
businessman as infantile and unknowing as Edmond is presented defies
credibility and destroys any chance the movie has to gain
verisimilitude. His meetings and conversations with hookers, strippers,
pimps, and other people are ludicrous. Nobody who has lived in a city as
long as Edmond has, is that untouched by the realities of life.
David Mamet has penned some
good (but not great) movies, like “Wag The Dog” (1998, shared credit)
and “The Untouchables” (1987). I liked Glengarry Glen Ross (1984) on the
stage, but it was filled with four-letter words and I didn’t like it
enough to watch the movie. Once was enough. But he’s also had
disappointments, like “The Spanish Prisoner” (1997) and the silly
“Spartan” (2004), another film that foisted his political beliefs on his
audience. “Edmond” is in the latter category.
“Edmond” epitomizes his great
weakness, dialogue that is not credible. People in real life just don’t
talk like Mamet has them talk, at least in this film. There is a scene
shortly after Edmond walks out on his wife in which he is seated in a
bar speaking with an unnamed character played by Joe Montagna. The
dialogue is laughably implausible as Montagna, who doesn’t know Edmond
from Adam, goes off on a racist diatribe. Co-producer Lionel Mark Smith,
who plays the pimp, says, “What do white guys sitting in a bar watching
a basketball game talk about? They talk about sex and race.” Sorry, Mr.
Smith, but that’s rubbish. I’ve been a white guy sitting in a bar
watching a basketball game and, while sex was sometimes a topic for
discussion, race never was. Never once! In Smith’s uninformed comment
shines forth the main problem with this film. Gordon and Mamet and Smith
and everyone else involved simply take it as gospel that all white
people are racist and impose that belief on their audience.
Asked what the movie means,
Macy paused for several moments before replying, “I don’t know what it
means. Edmond was looking for freedom and he found it in prison. He was
looking for safety and found it in a man who attacked him. He was
looking for honesty and he found it in prison. Sounds right to me.” That
says a lot about Macy and his view of American society.
Macy said it took him five
weeks to learn all the lines, and there are a lot of them. Most of the
film is Macy talking, spouting. He said they were the toughest lines he
ever had to learn, “I have never done a darker piece of work – a descent
Another reprehensible part of
the movie is the murder scene. Someone is killed in the prime of life,
but there is no horror at it. There’s nothing that emphasizes that
someone’s life has ended almost before it started. Oh, we see blood
spurting, but it happens and we are then left to forget the victim. This
is the way Hollywood seems to like to treat murder, not as something
horrible, but as something that happens and then we go away and forget
about it. Well, it is horrible and the horror of it should be
emphasized. I’m not talking about the physical brutality of the act of
murder itself. I’m talking about the horror of someone’s life, the only
chance at living they will ever have, being ended by the voluntary,
vicious act of someone else. Hollywood loves to use murder as a plot
device, but it has not faced up to the responsibility of painting it for
the terrible act that it is.
The set wasn’t as dark as the
movie, however. On the day they shot the scene in which Edmond attacks
the Pimp, they were shooting on an outside set at a studio. As Macy was
pummeling Smith, who is black, Jamie Foxx, who was filming on a set in a
building overlooking the “Edmond” set, yelled out the window, “What are
you shooting down there? Do you need help, brother?”
They needed help, all right,
but not with shooting that scene. They needed a new script with credible
dialogue to tell what could have been an interesting story about a man
descending into madness without basing it on white racism and bigotry.
August 12, 2006