Friday, May 4, 2012

Film Pairings — Small-Time Crooks And Great Small Crime Stories

When a writer or film director tries to tell odd, little stories, sometimes you end up with odd, little stories.  And Sonny is one of them.  I want to call it experimental; but there is nothing all that new or inventive about it. Perhaps it could be called an interesting exercise.  It is worth-while, perhaps an engaging curiosity.  Yet it is something out of the ordinary, well done and a chance to see what a talented young actor, James Franco, can do when given free reign. It is also a wonderful opportunity to watch the inimitable Harry Dean Stanton in a subtly meaty role.  If it interests you, Nicholas Cage shows what he did with this, his first directorial attempt.  He also makes a bizarre cameo appearance.

James Franco
The story is about Franco’s character, Sonny. He is a young man who returns to New Orleans and his brothel-owning mother after a couple of years in the Army. It appears that his military stint helped the young man sort out his life.  However, Mom, who trained her son to satisfy wealthy women for a fee, doesn’t want to let go of her prime earner, even though he’s decided to live a “normal “ life.  He just came by to say hello and goodbye. The story gets steamy and more complicated when a beautiful and sexy prostitute, played by sensuous Mena Suvari, shows up.  Her surprisingly tender, erotic presence muddies what otherwise would be a clear choice for the troubled young man.  This is Franco’s movie.  However, it is Stanton who makes it more than a high-quality student film.  Sonny was released in 2002.

Willem Dafoe
Paul Schrader directed Light Sleeper (1992), which is purportedly part of a Schrader trilogy that includes American Gigolo and The WalkerWillem Dafoe plays the young man, a Manhattan drug dealer and former addict, who seriously contemplates getting out of narcotics altogether.  His drug business boss, Susan Sarandon, has already decided to go legit and may or may not help Dafoe in his desire to change his life. She implies she might, once she’s settled.  Just one last drug delivery.  That’s all she asks. Yeah, right.  One last heist.  One last hit. As you are likely to guess, the last delivery ends up disastrous and deeply personal. However, the predictable twist has a twist.  Light Sleeper is certainly the stronger of the two films.  Dana Delany plays a central character and, if you don’t make a quick trip to the bathroom, you’ll notice a funny little scene with David Spade — not exactly a man with a thousand faces.

I’m really at a loss to recommend drinks to accompany these films. New Orleans?  New York? I’m certainly NOT going to suggest that things go better with Coke.  You are on your own tonight.

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