by Greg Muskewitz
Gossip is your usual mix of sex, deception and betrayal, and although that may seem and prove to be the case on the surface, there is a little more to it, which make this stand wobbly on its own. What I liked about Gossip is what stems it all: the title. The idea of tracing a rumor or piece of gossip as it goes from one’s mouth into another’s ear. Haven’t you ever played that game where your teacher whispers to one student, “My toes are green and my floor is clean,” and by the time it reaches you on the other side of the room, it’s something like, “Tomatoes are green and the Mayflower was run by Ben Verine?”Gossip follows a trio of New York college kids. Jones (Lena Headey), called by her last name for no particular reason, is the most logical, the smart one and the most fun. She studies and still has enough time to hit the clubs. Jones’ school day centers around a film class, through which Jones met her roommates, Derrick (James Marsden) and Travis (Norman Reedus). Filling out the stereotypes, Derrick is the smooth talking stud (I would say jock, but I never saw him playing any sports); and Travis, the nerdier, poorer celibate.
"The subject matter intrigues, but the story doesn't quite succeed."
One night while attending a big party (aren’t they all in college?) Derrick stumbles into a room where he can spy on Beau (Joshua Jackson) making out with campus “good girl” Naomi (Kate Hudson). After a point, Naomi passes out and Beau leaves her after failed sexual advances. End of subject.
Beginning of rumor to be traced down two different paths: 1). Naomi (designated as waiting to have sex until marriage) sleeps with Beau at the party. 2). Beau sleeps with Naomi after she’s passed out. By the end of the day, the rumor has made it back to the trio many times over, with the help of course by Ms. Gossip herself, Sheila (Marisa Coughlan). Naomi has been exploited for everything from wearing rubber panties to enjoying sex with multiple partners, et al. Naomi does what she can to deny the rumors at first, but knowing she did pass out, it was possible she could have been taken advantage of. She gets the cops involved claiming date rape. Things turn serious.
Of course as things go sour, Jones feels regret about the trouble they’ve gotten Beau into, and the mental impact placed upon Naomi. By that time though, we no longer know, and never really did in the first place, if there was a rape involved. Derrick feels no remorse staying at the jugular, and Travis, always hidden shadows, is obsessed with their creation. Gossip is mostly an amateur production as far as the direction and penning go, just with a big studio, Warner Bros. in this case, to back it. David Guggenheim makes his directorial debut, and for the most part does nothing to stand out. Guggenheim remains unnoticed and what is obvious, is the cursory direction he uses in relation with most lower/upper teen movies. It’s simply uninspiring, but without being intrusive, pushy, or petulant. Generic fits best. The screenwriters, Gregory Poirer and Theresa Rebeck are mostly new to the game, both with one solid movie each (Poirer’s Rosewood and Rebeck’s Harriet the Spy), but also those movies being their only prior credit. For anyone who has been brought up on the twistiness of Wild Things, Cruel Intentions, Reindeer Games and so on and so forth, this movie as a whole may be see-thru. It tries way too hard to be something it isn’t, but in certain aspects, it shines through.
Lena Headey works well as Jones, giving off the charm and appeal of a young Lara Flynn Boyle. But unfortunately, she doesn’t do anything in particular which distinguishes herself from the melding pot of young actresses. Kate Hudson, much the same, is equally a beautiful face to look at, but has the staying power thanks to her mom, Goldie Hawn. Both women are nice additions, especially when you compare them to the likes of a Jennifer Love Hewitt. Marsden is stiff and crusty, no special feat, and would have been much better if he and Jackson switched roles. Norman Reedus, a darker, younger looking Gary Sinise is also very much a new face, and he obviously performed as one. And Coughlan, so quick and tenacious in Teaching Mrs. Tingle, is equally as fake and overblown here.
Gossip is not a must-see, but a see-if-you-have-nothing-else-to-do. The subject matter is intriguing and though not at all times fun, what serious issues it broaches, does not hurt to be discussed afterwards.
Read no further to avoid the ending: But still, one cannot feel as though the satisfaction showed by Naomi would have sufficed for what she went through. A simple, “That’s what you deserve, how do you like it?” would not cover what had emotionally and physically done to her by Derrick. It was too clean of an end, much too superficial. Anyone else in her position would have been scared beyond that.Final Verdict: B-.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=3452&reviewer=172
originally posted: 05/27/00 02:12:14