we first meet author Giles DeAth (John Hurt), were not certain (as his last
name implies) whether the Englishman is dead or alive. Like an odd literary version of the
famed Rockettes, he is a model in synchronicity, never altering any pattern or ever coming
in touch with his soul. Of course some harpies would argue (but never your SnobzMaven)
that being a writer lends itself to oddball behavior anyway, while some would debate
whether a man like Giles who cant identify a VCR is even fit for human life.
Since his wifes death, the person he sees the most is his
faithful housekeeper Mrs. Barker (Sheila Hancock), who fusses over him and tries to get
him talking. As she brings the afternoon tea, his demeanor is so dour that we wonder
whether the cup is going to swallow him dry. Only the consummate actor John Hurt with his
woeful expressive face could make us believe that a dipstick has more personality.
LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND, a novel by Gilbert Adair and adapted
by writer-director Richard Kwietniowski, is one of those quirky but whimsical tales that
catches your heart spinning. Much of the allure is watching Hurt as the colorless writer
sleepwalk through life until he is struck by a bolt of love. And no, it didnt happen
with an electric shock treatment rendered by his housekeeper, or by an extra terrestrial
who turned him into a Sylvester Stallone body double. Instead, Adairs premise
consists simply of a man going to a movie -- his first in twenty years -- and unexpectedly
falling wildly, hopelessly in love with its screen star.
You may be surprised to hear that this very same scenario happened to
the SnobzMaven a half-century ago when Marlon Brando hopped on a motorcycle in The
Wild Ones. For days all the Maven could think about was leather and Hells
Angels. So why shouldnt this happen to Giles?
Nearing retirement age and sounding like a warped phonograph needle,
Giles needs anything but a love bypass. To his amazement, his life registers a heartbeat
when he mistakenly buys a movie ticket to Hotpants 2. Trying to decipher the
addelpate dialogue, the scholarly writer is totally lost until he glimpses the
pictures teenage heartthrob Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley).
Forget the age difference, cultural barriers and intellectual
disparity. There is something sweet about Giles mad crush that leads him impulsively
to buy a television and VCR, and then sifts through endless reruns of Bostocks film
classics. His continuing infatuation even has him scouring teen magazines for
any tidbits on his leading man, including that he resides on Long Island. Now a
full-fledged Bostockmaniac, he must go to Long Island and meet him!
Aaron Spelling could probably write a sitcom around this odd
mans loony attempts to locate his American dreamboat. Lets just say that after
weeks of moseying around, he finally stumbles upon the actors dog (remember the fan
mags?) that leads him to Ronnies girlfriend. Though shes put off initially by
his non-stop chatter, she slowly becomes captivated by Giles old world charm and
respect for her boyfriends work, including the overblown story of his popularity
overseas. Theres only one question left: Would he like to meet Ronnie? (Would he?)
When the two finally say hello, Giles clutches his beloveds
hand and doesnt want to let go. Priestley, whose depth is seldom seen on television,
portrays Ronnie as sympathetic and warm, innocent yet dim. Gullible and eager to move
ahead in his career, he is mesmerized by the older, non-threatening stranger who has
invented himself as a screenwriter.
But its the girlfriend who senses that Giles is smitten, and
when she arranges to leave town with Ronnie, this forces a showdown. How desperately
I love you, Giles finally admits. Ronnie gazes at him, quietly touches his shoulder,
and walks away.
Will the two meet again? Whatever the outcome, Ronnie has a different
perception of acting, while Giles, well, Giles has become a man with feeling and passion,
having searched for and found Love and Death On Long Island.
With love and knishes from your Show Biz Maven.
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