By Mark Betancourt
PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
Kevin Spacey plays the title role in "The Life of David Gale," which is about a college professor and anti-death penalty activist who lands on death row for the murder of a colleague.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday February 27, 2003
David Gale is an activist for the abolition of capitol punishment. He and his colleagues can debate the issue forever, but don't have the crucial statistic they need to win the fight: proof that an innocent man has been executed. David is now on death row. Think carefully now.
Congratulations, you just figured out "The Life of David Gale," given information you could have learned from the trailer.
This is not necessarily a bad thing; the Bible is kind of predictable and lots of people read that. Unfortunately for this movie, the plot isn't a good thing either, and a film like this needs all the good things it can get to make up for all the embarrassingly crappy things about it.
Luckily for the audience, many of this film's shortcomings are hilarious. Gale is head of the philosophy department at UT Austin (that is, until he gets convicted of raping and murdering his fellow activist and friend, Constance Hallaway), and one of the first scenes in the film depicts a party that, you know, professors would normally go to.
Students and faculty alike are freaking to crazy dance music and throwing each other into the swimming pool. The professors, apparently the most inebriated people there, are taking turns telling lewd limericks to the emphatic applause of sexy young students who are rubbing themselves all over their teachers like dancers in a rap video.
Yeah, I've been to that party.
Part of the problem here is that this film was written by someone who apparently never went to
college; the professors walk around saying stuff like, "Oh man, have you read William Bennett's ĪThe Book of Virtues?' Jeez, I'm still trying to wake up from that!"
The immature writing shows itself all over the script. The film's general appeal to liberalism becomes juvenile at times, as when someone quips that some large percentage of all serial killers votes Republican. The film also obviously opposes the death penalty, and at times this overt political agenda gets in the way of the story.
It's too bad, because the acting in this film is phenomenal. Kevin Spacey plays Gale, Laura Linney plays Constance Hallaway and Kate Winslet ÷ ah yes, Kate Winslet. There's a reason why the film's protagonist, magazine reporter Bitsey Bloom, hasn't come up yet. For all intents and purposes, she doesn't even need to be in the movie.
Gale wants Bitsey to interview him during the last few days before his execution. According to him, he wants her to tell his story and clear his name.
Okay, fair enough. Bitsey must be the catalyst here; she figures out what's going on and the movie turns out however it turns out because of the choices she makes. Not exactly.
In fact, all Bitsey does for the entire movie is run around realizing things. Everything in the plot would happen entirely without her participation. This might be okay if the whole idea were to show how helpless we all are when it comes to doing good (especially in Texas), or something like that. But unfortunately the film seems to think that Bitsey plays a crucial role in the plot development, and therefore manages to look totally ridiculous.
It's as if the screenplay of this film was never revised from its original draft, as if no one ever said, "You know, Bitsey doesn't need to be in here. You might want to change that."
Not even great acting could save this film, which is in the end an embarrassing failure. Next time "Charles Randolph II" decides to write a screenplay, he should ask someone if it's OK before they make a movie out of it.