What REALLY goes on in a job interview? Find out in the new revision of "Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed" (Warner Books) by Tony Medley, updated for the world of the Internet . Over 500,000 copies in print and the only book on the job interview written by an experienced interviewer, one who has conducted thousands of interviews. This is the truth, not the ivory tower speculations of those who write but have no actual experience. "One of the top five books every job seeker should read," says Hotjobs.com.


The Illusionist (9/10)

by Tony Medley

I like to see movies by smart people with plots that keep you thinking and actors who can spin the web of belief. That’s what I got with “The Illusionist.” Writer-Director Neil Burger got the idea from a short story, “Eisenheim the Illusionist,” by Steven Milhauser. But all that he took from the story was the character. Burger wrote the script, the original of which had a completely different ending from the one that was finally shot.

Eisenheim (Edward Norton), an amazing performer of mystifying feats, but a commoner in imperial Vienna, falls for a girl, Princess Sophie (Jessica Biel), with whom he had an infatuation as a child. Problem is Princess Sophie is Crown Prince Leopold’s (Rufus Sewell) squeeze. Leopold wants to marry her so he can overthrow his old man, the Emperor, and usurp the throne. As you might imagine, this causes all sorts of problems and sets Leopold’s top cop, Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti), also a commoner, against Eisenheim. The fact that both Eisenheim and Uhl are commoners is meaningful because Leopold is nothing if not a man who flaunts his imperial roots.

The entire cast is exceptional, but the most enjoyable is Sewell, who creates a delightfully hateful Leopold. Norton, who is known to be a perfectionist, gives an unerring interpretation of the illusionist he plays. Giamatti gives another outstanding performance as the implacable inspector who has to toe a fine line between representing an evil man but at the same time keeping his exalted position. Jessica Biel plays Sophie as a beautiful, heady, romantic interest and the person around whom all the controversy swirls.

Biel was the last person cast, and at the last minute. She had read for the part earlier and been rejected. “My reputation around Hollywood as an action movie star hurt me,” she says. “But this is the kind of film I want to do.” Then when she was asked to read again, with Producer Michael London and Norton, she went to the Paris store on Main Street in Santa Monica and bought vintage clothes appropriate for turn-of-the-century Vienna (it was shot in Prague on a budget in the “mid-teen millions” according to London) and went to the reading totally in character. She says, “Going to the reading, which was in Beverly Hills at 11:00 at night, I was terrified, dripping sweat, because I didn’t know how they would react to the way I was dressed.”

But when she walked in, says London, “she was so in character both Edward and I were knocked over” and she got the part. It was a good choice because she isn’t just beautiful; she adds a cerebral aspect to the character, which would be needed to so captivate someone like Eisenheim.

Says Biel, “I’ve never worked with people of this caliber before” (Norton and Giamatti are both Oscar winners), “and I was intimidated by Edward. He is so smart and is incredibly intense to work with. He will let you have it if you aren’t doing what he thinks is right. He’s opinionated but really cares and you can’t criticize that.”

The music (Phillip Glass), so often a key to a movie like this, is unusual. Instead of period music, it is dissonant with a much more modern feel. The cinematography (Dick Pope), too, is unusual. Burger didn’t want it to be sophisticated; instead looking for the visual feel of early silent films. So the look is dark. In fact, one of the final scenes is a beautiful countryside setting that is so bright and vibrant that it jolted me when it flashed on the screen.

All in all, this is something that is becoming an endangered species in Hollywood, a script- and character-driven movie that is highly entertaining.

July 29, 2006