Tag Archives: William Hurt

Body Heat (1981, Lawrence Kasdan)

Sumptuous is unfortunately not the right word to describe Body Heat. I wish it were because sumptuous just sounds hot, temperature-wise. And Body Heat is all about heat. It takes place in during a very hot Florida summer, its cast dripping with sweat, constantly in search of a cool breeze or a cool drink. Functioning air conditioning too.

The film opens with lead William Hurt watching a building burn in the distance. Lots of arson for insurance money going on in the small city. Hurt’s a lawyer, the type who defends arsonists and general fraudsters. He’s not good at his job, but he’s charming, good-looking, and likable enough. He’s maybe too objectively stupid to be particularly sympathetic, but the liability and charm goes a long way. Despite his questionable lawyering, he’s a local ladies man, regaling pals Ted Danson and J.A. Preston with his exploits. Danson’s the county prosecutor who regularly beats Hurt in court but there are no hard feelings, they’re good friends. Preston’s the town’s single detective; he looks on Hurt a little more paternally than fraternally, which gives the relationship some texture. Hurt’s relationships with Danson and Preston, which never have enough drama to even be C plots, are one of writer and director Kasdan’s great accomplishments in the film. There’s a history between the men, a warm one (not a Heat pun), and as it gets more and more strained, it’s affecting to watch. Hurt’s friends see the best in him, even when he doesn’t.

For texture Danson gets a whole Fred Astaire wannabe thing, dancing in and out of rooms, or just while he’s walking along. It’s a fun character trait.

Again, Kasdan’s got all sorts of wonderful details. Plus Danson—not a short man—is great at the dancing.

Things start getting complicated when Hurt sets his sights on married woman Kathleen Turner. She’s an ideal conquest—her husband’s out of town during the week—and she’s able to keep up with Hurt’s innuendo banter. Kasdan does a phenomenal job with the innuendo banter; you wish there was more of it but Hurt’s able to seduce her pretty quickly so things go quickly from banter to lovey-dovey talk. Hurt’s rather receptive to the lovey-dovey when it comes from Turner. The film establishes in the first scene he’s not from his regular paramours, but they’re also not stinking rich and have actual jobs; as long as its a week night, Turner and Hurt are able to just have sex marathons, breaking only when physically exhausted in her luxurious house.

Sumptuous is the right word to describe the house.

And things carry on pretty well, even after the film introduces Turner’s husband (an appropriately nebulously creepy Richard Crenna); Hurt and Turner even survive getting busted by her best friend (Kim Zimmer) and niece (Carola McGuinness). But then Hurt runs into Turner and Crenna at a restaurant, leading to an incredibly awkward dinner, and then they start talking about how much nicer life would be if Crenna weren’t around anymore. After all, Hurt knows plenty of lowlife criminals (Mickey Rourke, who’s awesome in a small part) and he’s tapped into the law and order side thanks to Danson and Preston.

Can Hurt and Turner go from a passionate affair to something more dangerous? Well, maybe the more appropriate phrasing is can they successfully go from their passionate affair to something more dangerous.

The film’s got a fantastic lead performance from Hurt, who’s so charming, good-looking, and likable it isn’t even initially obvious he might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. And Turner’s always playing him for some reason, it’s just not clear what. Body Heat has no illusions about its leads’ affair. John Barry’s booming, sweeping, jazzy-ish score is never romantic. Tragic, sure. But never romantic. Even if Turner is capable of it, there’s never a sign Hurt could be.

She’s hot, sure, but rich and hot is twice as good.

Then there’s the lush Richard H. Kline photography—the film looks sharp but muggy, like through a heat haze—and Kasdan’s spectacular direction. Kasdan goes all out with composition, both for static shots and the swooping crane shots. All of them cut together sublimely, courtesy Carol Littleton. Body Heat is a technical marvel.

Then there’s the script. Outside the lovey-dovey talk, where Turner turns the tables (no pun) on Hurt, it’s all sharp, deliberate. Kasdan does a great job directing the actors. Big parts, small parts, everyone in Body Heat gives an outstanding performance. The way Hurt delivers the dialogue is something special. The filmmaking elevates Heat from its thriller and suspense tropes already—but Hurt’s performance (along with Turner’s, though in a different way) make it a singular picture.

It’s pulp but it’s not. It’s too humid to be pulp. The pulp gets waterlogged. Body Heat is exceptional.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan; director of photography, Richard H. Kline; edited by Carol Littleton; music by John Barry; production designer, Bill Kenney; produced by Fred T. Gallo; released by Warner Bros.

Starring William Hurt (Ned Racine), Kathleen Turner (Matty Walker), Ted Danson (Peter Lowenstein), J.A. Preston (Oscar Grace), Lanna Saunders (Roz Kraft), Carola McGuinness (Heather Kraft), Mickey Rourke (Teddy Lewis), Kim Zimmer (Mary Ann), Jane Hallaren (Stella), and Richard Crenna (Edmund Walker).


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The Big Chill (1983, Lawrence Kasdan)

With The Big Chill, Kasdan tries to be profound, heart-warming and cynical. He doesn’t succeed. For a film so much about introspection, Kasdan is surprisingly unaware at the inherent artifice. The film’s cast of characters are–if they’re male–extraordinary. There’s some lip service to the women’s successes (doctor, lawyer) but the men are rich or famous. It leads to some contrivances. If Kasdan and co-writer Barbara Benedeck were more conscious of the artifice, Chill would probably be great.

As it is now, it’s a good film with some great performances, outstanding technical qualities and a lot of boring stretches. A couple of characters are misfires. Kevin Kline’s Southern royalty, besides being a painfully artificial characterization, isn’t believable as a former hippie. And JoBeth Williams is so unlikable, I was confused about her having kids–I assumed, given her heartlessness when talking about them, they were stepchildren.

But there are outstanding performances too. The most surprising ones are Tom Berenger and Meg Tilly. Kasdan and Benedeck don’t give equal time to the cast and Berenger–and William Hurt–are mostly the male leads. The women get far less representation–Mary Kay Place, who’s outstanding, is the closest thing to a female lead.

Glenn Close and Jeff Goldblum are kind of window dressing. Their few scenes together, however, are great.

Kasdan’s composition, aided by John Bailey’s cinematography, is often wondrous. A lot of credit for Chill belongs to Carol Littleton’s nuanced editing.

Chill‘s parts are better than its whole.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Lawrence Kasdan; written by Kasdan and Barbara Benedek; director of photography, John Bailey; edited by Carol Littleton; production designer, Ida Random; produced by Michael Shamberg; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Kevin Kline (Harold), Glenn Close (Sarah), JoBeth Williams (Karen), Jeff Goldblum (Michael), Mary Kay Place (Meg), Tom Berenger (Sam), Meg Tilly (Chloe), Don Galloway (Richard) and William Hurt (Nick).


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Mr. Brooks (2007, Bruce A. Evans)

The scariest thing about Mr. Brooks, ostensibly a serial killer thriller, is what if it’s not an absurdist comedy. What if we’re really supposed to believe Demi Moore is a millionaire cop who’s out to get the bad guys….

Thankfully, between William Hurt’s performance (he gleefully chews scenery like his omnipresent gum) as Kevin Costner’s imaginary friend and then Costner’s silly nasal voice, it’s impossible to take seriously. And I’m not even mentioning when the movie obviously lifts scenes from Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs… or makes fun of Demi Moore being married to Ashton Kutcher.

The first half of the film maintains this absurdist approach—some of the dialogue between Moore and Lindsay Crouse is so funny, it’s hard to believe Crouse could keep a straight face. Unfortunately, writers Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon can’t keep up the farcical nature and eventually feel the need to insert narrative. There’s actual potential, but it’s problematic given the film as it exists so far.

For example, Hurt sort of disappears and Moore becomes prevalent.

Dane Cook’s around too, as Costner’s erstwhile sidekick and Moore’s suspect, and he’s awful. Marg Helgenberger, as Costner’s unknowing wife, isn’t much help either. She sells some of the absurdity in the first ten minutes, but then her presence becomes troublesome. A lot of the plot threads go nowhere.

When it finally gets to the inevitable twist ending, Mr. Brooks has lost the momentum. But, in a certain frame of mind, it’s not exactly worthless.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Bruce A. Evans; written by Evans and Raynold Gideon; director of photography, John Lindley; edited by Miklos Wright; music by Ramin Djawadi; production designer, Jeffrey Beecroft; produced by Kevin Costner, Gideon and Jim Wilson; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Kevin Costner (Mr. Earl Brooks), Demi Moore (Det. Tracy Atwood), Dane Cook (Mr. Smith), William Hurt (Marshall), Marg Helgenberger (Emma Brooks), Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Hawkins), Danielle Panabaker (Jane Brooks), Aisha Hinds (Nancy Hart) and Lindsay Crouse (Captain Lister).


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Lost in Space (1998, Stephen Hopkins)

For maybe forty minutes–from twenty minutes in to the hour mark–Lost in Space is actually rather engaging. It’s not any good as a narrative, but Hopkins’s direction of the space sequences is phenomenal. The film opens with something familiar, a dogfight out of Star Wars, but the later sequences are not. They aren’t original, but they’re the first time such a budget had been expended on them.

Overall, Hopkins does an excellent job with the film. The last hour, featuring an alien planet and time travel, falls apart because Akiva Goldsman’s script collapses under its own idiocy. The first hour, when Goldsman is still setting up the plot, only has awful dialogue and can survive.

The CG is sometimes excellent, sometimes not. Lost in Space tries a lot with the technology. Hopkins is able to get good performances opposite the CG–especially from Lacey Chabert and Heather Graham.

Chabert is good throughout (she’s inexplicably underused, having nothing to do) while Graham occasionally runs into some problems. Her flirting scenes with Matt LeBlanc are terrible, but she’s otherwise good. LeBlanc’s terrible the whole time. Often laughably so.

William Hurt is excellent (though one wonders why he said yes to Lost in Space and not Jurassic Park). Gary Oldman is hammy, but the character’s terribly underwritten. Mimi Rogers, Jack Johnson and Jared Harris are all awful. Watching Rogers act opposite Hurt is painful.

The film’s bad, but there are some amazing sequences in it. Nice score from Bruce Broughton too.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen Hopkins; screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, based on the television series created by Irwin Allen; director of photography, Peter Levy; edited by Ray Lovejoy; music by Bruce Broughton; production designer, Norman Garwood; produced by Carla Fry, Goldsman, Hopkins and Mark W. Koch; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Gary Oldman (Dr. Zachary Smith), William Hurt (Prof. John Robinson), Matt LeBlanc (Maj. Don West), Mimi Rogers (Dr. Maureen Robinson), Heather Graham (Dr. Judy Robinson), Lacey Chabert (Penny Robinson), Jack Johnson (Will Robinson) and Jared Harris (Older Will Robinson).


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