Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Walker: Grade B

The Walker (2007)
Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Ned Beatty, Lily Tomlin, Willem Dafoe. Writer-director Paul Schrader.

Harrelson is a gay Washington, DC escort and gossip-monger for ageing rich women and wives of the powerful (e.g., Bacall, Tomlin, Thomas). He plays canasta with them in the afternoons and takes them to the opera in the evenings. They accept him into their circle like a useful mascot. When one of the women’s secret lovers is found murdered, the walker calls it in to shield her from publicity, but soon he is the prime suspect. He keeps the secret even when he quickly becomes a social pariah. His "ladies" won't see him any more. He breaks up with his boyfriend in a crisis of self-loathing. I’m not even sure who committed the murder, possibly Ned Beatty? Disconnected talk about a senate scandal hearing went by too quickly. The story is really about Harrelson’s character, although it would have been a better movie if it had taken the whodunit angle more seriously.

This is Harrelson’s show. He is always a strong actor, but often as a supporting character. Here he demonstrates that he has the chops to carry the whole film. It is such a great performance, he is almost unrecognizable as the same guy who was in No Country for Old Men and Trans Siberian. Schrader’s writing and direction highlight Harrelson’s talent. The walker’s character resolution in the end is weak, as he simply announces his motive for keeping the secret. It is believable, but that motivation was not well-demonstrated in the action, so we just have to accept him at his word. The strong part of the movie is the characterization of the walker and Harrelson’s conveyance of it.

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