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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.89%
Worth A Look: 28.95%
Average: 2.63%
Pretty Bad34.21%
Total Crap: 26.32%

4 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Curve, The
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by DokBrowne

"Much Ado About Matthew Lillard"
4 stars

Hey, I'm the guy who not only takes the presence of Matthew Lillard in a movie as something cool, but as most likely the best possible reason I'd have for ever seeing said movie. I'm such a Matthew Lillard fan that I even visit his fan site on a semi-regular basis, and I never go to those gay-ass things, not even for my most mainstream celeb faves

So you know I'm gonna argue that Matt is the life of this movie, the main course, the coup de grace, the crazy motherfucker who's relishing the acting job more than everyone else he shares the screen with COMBINED, and who, yeah, has an unusual habit of incorporating spittle into one of his more intense scenes. At least I think he did. Maybe this was the one movie where he DOESN'T do that; I forgot.

Anyway, I fancy The Curve a respectably entertaining companion piece to other failed theatrical no-shows that were banished to video, like Cherry Falls and other intriguing titles you'd never heard of before seeing their boxes at Blockbuster (I'm talking Bongwater, It's the Rage, Lillard's Dish Dogs, uh...Femalien 2...). What these movies share is a generally low measure of ambition: you can tell they were destined for shelving at a rental shop, because the ingredients just don't add up: the editing's a little clumsy, the climax too muted, bizarre, and it all feels kinda cheap (even the fun ones, like this baby). Plus Matthew Lillard, not to mention co-stars Michael Vartan, Randall Batinkoff, Dana Delaney, and Keri Russell, has tallied up at least twice as many straight-to-video notches on his resume as real, theatrically-released ones. You've seen that box for the ensemble romantic comedy featuring a 2nd or 3rd-billed Lillard (who actually only cameos), the corny soft core Delaney thriller in the Drama section that's about as erotic as the current condition of a sock you forgot to wash for 5 years, the cute romance in which Felicity makes some dorky Patrick Dempsey-wannabe camp out on her lawn to prove his love, or something. And I think Vartan was in one of those quirky wedding comedies with Andy Dick and Sean Patrick Flanery (another big-time video hound). There's just not enough commercialization at work here. The ending is too subdued (although its big irony is about as clever as someone smacking you in the head with a frying pan), the Lillard character is too psychotic, Vartan is way too big a pussy to qualify as a protagonist, and I didn't hear any catchy songs by Smash Mouth, Eve 6, or Britney

These are differences that appeal to me, though. Much as I like the cookie-cutter teen romantic comedies of Harry Elfont & Deborah Kaplan, I get an alternative kick out of these weirder, more unique efforts. Especially when they star Matthew Lillard, and crib key story points from the justly-maligned though nonetheless HILARIOUS, MEMORABLE movie Dead Man on Campus, and if I may pause briefly to say fuck you to everyone who helped ruin Zack's one and seemingly only shot at big-screen success. Fuck you all! You know you used to watch "Saved by the Bell" every afternoon back in the '90s. Zack was our Ferris Bueller, and yet now that we're all grown up, the image of him straddling a big purple bong isn't good enough for your adult-inated art-house standards? And now he's joining casts to weakening television dynasties that don't even showcase his specific COMEDIC talents, instead making him fresh meat for hard-boiled cops crap. Fucking American society

Anyway, every so often when I head to Blockbuster for a weekend binge, I find a movie like The Curve and it's not just the big summer movie that I never got around to seeing in theaters, nor the classic motion picture I've been meaning to rent for ages to amplify my AFI's Top 100 Movies checklist. It just sounds like a cool movie, with what looks like sufficiently crisp photography in the little pictures on the box (because one thing I hate about experimenting with my movie rentals is ending up with a piece of shit flick that I can barely see, even through my coke-bottle glasses), and which stars some underrated actor I MATTHEW LILLARD! I'm constantly surprised at how widespread the public hatred for poor Lillard is. At first I thought it was just some geeks who resented his association with notorious fuckface Freddie Prinze, Jr., but then it was like everyone who couldn't stand SLC Punk had united in their decision to blame Lillard and only he for it. And then it became a routine: "'Summer Catch' co-stars that annoying jackass Matthew Lillard..." or "As if '13 Ghosts' wasn't stupid enough, along comes Matthew Lillard to spaz out and make matters even worse with his obnoxious overacting..." It's a conspiracy against him. 13 Ghosts was the first Lillard movie I tried to view with detached objectivity, to observe his performance and scan it for any despicable aspects. I came away admitting to myself that he was a tad whiny, and loud, and green around the edges, and habitually employs every single facet of his body to act out a line of dialogue. Fine. But he's A RIOT! I love, just absolutely love, that he gives it his all. And that he's not even a full-blown professional. Unlike Morgan Freeman or Tom Hanks, Lillard can't garner praise for performing only a slight twitch of his left eyebrow, if not nothing altogether, nor is he ever assigned to significant roles requiring grace and nobility. Harrison Ford's the gruff, lovable action hero, and Matthew Lillard's the loopy/wacky/insane sidekick/villain. Not that he can't, or shouldn't, ever break the typecasting and go for something fresh or differently challenging, but hey, we never get on Ford's case for playing the exact same person every time. And like I said, there's an enthusiasm to what Lillard does. Unlike his buddy Fred, Matt doesn't coast by on winning smiles and struggling interpretations of his dialogue. He goes all out, we gives you something to watch. Will I remember any of what acclaimed novice thesp Ewan McGregor says or does in [Episodes 1-3? Unlikely. Will I remember Matthew Lillard's ultra-creepy, intense stares into the camera during The Curve, like at the bar when he's delivering this disturbing little anecdote and the background gradually fades to black, keeping only him and his eerie face lit and focused upon? Or Stevo's ridiculously rousing "fuck you" to his understanding parents in SLC Punk? Of course, and hell yeah. I watch Punk over and over again just for Lillard. I mean, it's a wonderful movie, I believe, one I'm so fascinated by that (for me) to review it could not convincingly explain the profundity and filmmaking virtuoso at work. It's like Back to the Future, Pleasantville, Chasing Amy, or some other deeply important movies (in my life) to which I know I can't possibly do justice in writing. But anyway, above all I love that James Merendino allowed Matthew Lillard to lead the movie as Stevo. What Lillard has far, far too little of so far are crucial roles, which is maybe why The Curve curries as much favor with me as it does. He gets more screen time than the "hero" (Michael Vartan), and it's obvious after a while that it's all geared towards him, which is rewarding for a fan like me but clearly a cruel prank to anti-Lillards such as Scott Weinberg, who I don't personally know at all but hope he doesn't hate me after reading this. The only character whose mind and motives are explored are Lillard's. Vartan's just a decent guy, so his behavior and personality don't really matter. Randall Batinkoff disappears early on, so he remains a blank slate. Keri Russell's the chick, thereby describing her entire identity. And Dana Delaney is disconnected from the proceedings, acting as a liaison on the side; the investigator or the psychiatrist, one of those outside, disposable positions in suspense dramas like this one (also see Edward James Olmos in Gossip for lack of any more well-known references), and since she's officially the token mature adult, the fact that she's played by a semi-notable (as in recognizable, since I'd never call Dana Delaney a very good actress) celebrity makes up for how uninteresting she is. So back to my point: Lillard gets all the action. As the plot thickens, so do the complexities of his character: is he telling the truth about his past, can he be trusted, why is he so perfectly CREEPY? You know the drill in these types. He's the villain who, when being written, commanded more and more of the writer's time, until ultimately the entire focus of a story is shifted in this guy's direction. He's Al Pacino to Warren Beatty in the Dick Tracy film, so overshadowing of the bland good guys that you virtually prefer rooting for his side than for that of truth and law and order and all that. Vartan's not a killer, sure, and he loves his girlfriend, and he has a conscience (for a while), but does any of that really make him sympathetic or endearing? Lillard on the other hand IS a killer, and he constantly lies to, manipulates, and betrays not just anyone but people who are supposed to be his best friends, but he's extremely charismatic as well, and his motives, once revealed, are somewhat understandable, logical (if I remember correctly), albeit far-fetched in a silly Urban Legend way. Watch the movie and afterwards report honestly on whom, among the 4 main characters, you'd rather spend time with

Lillard aside, this is a surprisingly involving serious-thriller version of Dead Man on Campus about some guys who get rid of their roommate in exchange for compensating straight 'A's at the college where they're failing. The difference between this and the one starring Zack and Guy is that this one relies heavily on surprises and plot twists, as characters deceive each other left and right, until finally the whole scenario does a backflip for an unexpected ending. An empty feeling may ensue during the credits, though, as plot holes so big that even an oblivious entertainment-junkie square like me recognizes come to mind, like why would Felicity get with Tim (that's Matt) - then later have a quiet, apologetic moment with boyfriend Chris (Mike Vartan) - if their real deal at the end were true? And where the hell was Rand(-all Batinkoff, whose character is actually named Rand) the whole time? And what exactly was Tim's core ambition (whose side was he on)? The movie's obvious reach for winking irony is acceptable, though, and I sorta liked the final line, despite how much more the movie itself seemed to appreciate it

But Matthew Lillard is the best. Damn this guy is a pro, all the way. One of the most compelling, can't-take-your-eyes-off-him great actors available. He has energy that would frighten Jack Nicholson and Jim Carrey - his casual intensity, truly, makes for electrifying viewing. Why isn't everyone begging him for roles? Ah well, I'm grateful he's still got the "in" status to land supporting stuff in wide releases. Plus "Scooby Doo", which I'm looking forward to like you wouldn't believe. Matt, Sarah, Fred (neh, but likable), AND Linda Cardellini? Personally it's a fantasy foursome, with Matt at the core, just as it and every movie he's in should be

Final Grade = B

It's popular to bash on Matthew Lillard, but I'm here to speak for the opposition. Because he puts himself out there by going to (possibly unnecessary) extremes, he's an easy target. To me, though, because he puts himself out there by going to extremes, because he makes acting look like fun, because he's intense and there's a surplus these days of overhyped performances that are tediously sedated - call it The Emperor's New Acting Style - Lillard's go-for-broke, energetic attitude is exactly what I crave these days. He's my hero

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originally posted: 12/05/01 21:44:22
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell nice twisty thriller 4 stars
9/01/10 art IT"s SAD not SCARY! 1 stars
12/23/07 Janet Decent movie and entertaining. Much better than the total pans, which other movies have des 4 stars
6/18/07 Janet Saw it only for Vartan (SO HOT) but liked it - twists & plot worked for me. 4 stars
1/18/07 pin Deeply flawed in every facet. One of the worst films I have seen in awhile. 1 stars
1/16/05 rachel owens i loved it sooo much 5 stars
8/09/04 ivette i love it!!, fantastic movie 5 stars
6/28/04 Mare The only reason that I watched this movie is MICHAEL VARTAN. He's hot, isn't he? 3 stars
6/06/03 a poor 1 stars
2/23/01 Daniel Franc Good 4 stars
4/21/00 SwatchDog I liked it. Unoriginal, but some parts were moving (ala the memorial scene) 4 stars
10/02/99 CHOPARD not very bad, but... 2 stars
9/22/99 Thom Ernst As of Sept. 21/1999 -- the worst I've seen this year 1 stars
4/17/99 Randall Amazing, so good to see such a freshing movie 5 stars
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  24-Jan-1998 (R)


  27-May-1999 (MA)

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