Curtain Call (1998)
“A spirited romance.”
Director: Peter Yates
Cast: James Spader, Polly Walker, Michael Caine
Synopsis: A bachelor afraid of marriage angers his long-time girlfriend by buying a splendid townhouse just for himself, only to find it haunted by the ghosts of a famous theatrical couple.
Curtain Call is a throwback to the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s that lacks vitality and wit and largely wastes the talents of a fine cast. The paper-thin plot lumbers along at a deadly pace, and the hapless hero lacks any self-assertion, constantly allowing himself to be manipulated by circumstances and other characters until even the most patient of viewers grows exasperated with him.
James Spader plays Stevenson Lowe, publisher at a company once owned by his family, who is afraid of commitment, much to the exasperation of Julia (Polly Walker) his long suffering girlfriend. Now Lowe loses my sympathy from the outset here because Polly Walker is one of the sexiest creatures ever to stand in front of a camera, and it is my lifelong desire to die at her hands in the same way that John Standing does in the otherwise execrable Peter Greenaway disaster 8 ½ Women. Anyway, Julia begins to succumb to the attentions of vaguely oily Will Dodge (an underused Sam Shepherd), and Lowe, in the manner of all hopeless romantic heroes, immediately realises what he has let slip through his fingers. If that wasn’t bad enough the old house into which he has just moved is haunted by a pair of bickering theatrical types from the 20s, and their well-meaning attempts to help the situation only make matters worse.
For a comedy Curtain Call is remarkably light on any laughs. In fact, there aren’t any at all — it’s almost as if you’re watching a compilation of all the least funny moments from the countless number of films that have covered this tired old topic over the past century. Even a pair as talented as Michael Caine and Maggie Smith struggle to do anything worthwhile with the material and you can only wonder how they were conned into appearing in the first place (well, OK, Caine seems willing to appear in any film that’s offered to him, but Smith usually shows better judgement with her choices).
This one’s a dud on all counts which is a surprise considering the talent on display in front of and behind the camera. The presence of Walker is a bonus, but she isn’t given anywhere near enough screen-time to make this film worth seeking out.
(Reviewed 23rd September 2005)