Based on the “Life and Death of Ivan Illych” Bernard Rose translates the Tolstoy novel into an edgy, unforgiving, tight drama set in present day Hollywood. Danny Huston plays Ivan – a coke addicted talent agent caught up in a whirlwind of drugs, sex and celebrities who is only as valuable as his latest client. He is celebrated for bringing a huge star into the agency and then when he dies (this is, after all, the life and DEATH of Ivan), everyone just jokes about him dying face down in a pile of cocaine.The book and the movie is about how utterly meaningless Ivan’s life and death is. Ivan lived an empty, stone cold emotionless, career driven life and his death was just a blip on the radar. The only person there to watch him die was a nurse who didn’t even know his name and the only person the hospital could find to notify was his secretary.
You want to have sympathy for his suffering, you want to see his human-ness underneath the reckless, arrogant, Hollywood fast lane lifestyle. You want his death to matter. But it doesn’t. Another agent will come along and pick up his client list. Ivan will just disappear.
You won’t cry. Nobody else did either.
The characters are ugly and despicable. But I watched with morbid fascination. I’ve been in LA a while now and the only story I’ve heard is about Hollywood in the 80’s when there were places you could go where people would be snorting cocaine right at the bar. So maybe there is some truth to Ivans xtc.
Time Out London said it was about “spiritual vacancy in the penthouse of decadent culture.” Ivan is living it up in his house in the hills with hookers, coke and a drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend who allows the big movie star client Ivan brought to the agency to snort coke off the inside of her thigh as they ride in a limo to a red carpet awards show.
Their isn’t much to their relationship. Ivan is a BIG DEAL when he’s got BIG DEALS going down. And when he’s at the top of his game, all the compromises to his health and integrity become his downfall. And his girlfriend only matters as long as he does.
The foil is Ivan’s sister who just calls it like it is one night at dinner. “Look, Ivan’s brought over another coke addicted slut”, she tells their dad. She obviously has no respect for Ivan or cares about the life he is living even if, on the surface, it looks as if he is the more important, more powerful person.
He just blows her off because what she has to say doesn’t matter to him all the while his girlfriend is sitting next to him sniffing the whole time making excuses about why she keeps getting up to go the bathroom. He says to her, “you don’t have to make excuses.” He has been able to live out his debauchery in the open without criticism or consequence because he’s the important talent agent representing a megastar.IvansXTC is a harrowing and unglamorous story that would never get told outside of a blurb in Variety. “Ivan Beckman died of lung cancer. He was 42.”
Rose also directed Candyman and the video for Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.