Tribeca Film Releases COLLABORATOR On Demand TodayJune 19, 2012
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: COLLABORATOR (Tribeca Film).
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COLLABORATOR is an odd little film that critiques the creative process in unexpected ways. Written and directed by star Martin Donovan (BOSS), the film focuses on Robert, a once-successful playwright whose latest work has been critically savaged. Seeking a respite from nest of vipers that is the New York theater scene, Robert, somewhat ironically, heads to Los Angeles to clear his head.
Once there, Robert crashes with his elderly mom (Katherine Helmond, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND), who, for some reason, repeatedly calls him “Kevin” – one of a couple of head-scratching moments for which Donovan provides no explanation. Wandering aimlessly through the southern California sunshine, Robert reconnects with long-ago lover and muse Emma (Olivia Williams, AN EDUCATION) and the two make a half-hearted plan to work together on a screenplay. Robert’s professional plans go awry, however, when he naively allows Gus (David Morse, TREME), an ex-con who never left the neighborhood, in for a beer. Gus, it turns out, is a wanted man, and Robert quickly becomes his hostage.
It’s at about this point that COLLABORATOR veers off the track and becomes a weird two-hander, with Robert trying anything he can, including acting exercises, to keep Gus from shooting him. Feeling more like a stage play than a movie, the entire second half of the film stays almost exclusively in the house with Gus and Robert, venturing outside the walls only through the credibility stretching live television coverage of the hostage siege.
Donovan is a fine actor, and his stern visage and soulful eyes give his characters a searching quality that is always welcome. But he doesn’t bring the same level of detail to his work behind the camera, which is choppy and predictable. The housebound nature of COLLABORATOR isn’t helped by Donovan the director’s repetitive, back-and-forth editing between characters and static camera.
Morse is always reliable, and the enigmatic and foul-mouthed Gus is right in the actor’s wheelhouse, taking advantage of his intimidating bulk and quietly insinuating voice. Helmond has some nice moments as Donovan’s addled mom, and Williams acquits herself in her small but meaty appearance.
Films by self-directing actors are always a gamble, both for their creators and their audiences. Some of the efforts are commendable, but most end up in the netherworld between indulgent and incompetent. COLLABORATOR resides squarely in that middle ground. Adequately scripted and well-acted, the film cries out for a more sure hand at the controls. Fans of the actors are advised to check it out. All others, keep looking.
Chris Claro is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former Director of Promotion for Sundance Channel and now works as a writer, producer, and media educator. He is a regular contributor to dvdverdict.com and contributor to the Eyes and Ears section of huffingtonpost.com. He blogs at http://disconcertingglare.blogspot.com. Follow Chris on twitter @cgclaro.
COLLABORATOR (Tribeca Film) can be found on demand.
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