Slipstream Movie Review
Isn't it funny that if a stockbroker said that, his friends and family would question his psychiatric health and advise him to find profession help, but when a 69-year-old Academy Award winner says that, he not only gets a movie made, but attracts a renowned cast and crew boasting a combined total of more than 250 awards, honors, and nominations?
Those words belong to Anthony Hopkins describing the nonlinear, absurdist Slipstream, which marks his third directorial attempt. In the press notes, Hopkins claims the film -- which he also wrote -- is about "the implosion of a man's mind," and that's a pretty accurate description.
The film unfolds in a stream-of-consciousness style as quirky Hollywood screenwriter Felix Bonhoeffer (Hopkins) works on a murder-mystery movie and becomes baffled as his characters start appearing in his actual life, and his life starts blending into his characters'.
Felix's movie within Slipsteam follows two mysterious bad guys (Christian Slater and Jeffrey Tambor) as they execute a burly bartender (Michael Clarke Duncan) and terrorize roadside diner patrons and employees in the middle of the Mojave Desert. On the set of the movie within the movie, there's a loudmouth producer (John Turturro), a script supervisor (Camryn Manheim), and a sheepish director (Gavin Grazer) who make Felix's life even more perplexing.
Non-linear filmmaking -- when written and directed effectively -- can make for a challenging and thought-provoking cinematic experience. In Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, and Twin Peaks, celebrated director David Lynch mutilates the traditional narrative through-line and creates wonderfully abstract films that have developed cult followings. Although his films are anything but obvious, Lynch clearly has something to say and demands his viewers watch a second or third time to understand it.
There's a difference, however, between nonlinear storytelling and schizophrenic storytelling, and Slipstream falls into the latter category. It doesn't pique our curiosity or demand additional viewings like Lynch's films, because the audience cannot attach themselves emotionally to anyone or anything; the confusing, scatterbrained writing and directing isn't challenging, it's frustrating.
That's because Slipstream's conclusive twist reveals that Anthony Hopkins didn't have deep, philosophical ideas to begin with; he just wanted to experiment with a familiar, overused concept. On a technical level, the film is an interesting exercise in experiential cinema. But Hopkins fails to give Slipstream commercial value. Instead, he's content with Slipstream going down in history as his personal vanity project.