Cage receives a slating for directorial debut, Sonny

Preview by Jack Foley

 

NICOLAS Cage has experienced something of a personal and professional rollercoaster over the past couple of years. Long gone are the days when the star could do no wrong (following his Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas and critical acclaim for action movies such as The Rock and Face/Off).

Of late, the actor seems to be experiencing as many career lows as he does highs, while personally his much-publicised marriage to Lisa Marie Presley was over as quickly as it began.

His reunion with Face/Off director, John Woo, for last year’s Windtalkers, failed to ignite at the Box Office, but he appeared to be getting things back on track with Adaptation, the long-awaited and critically well-received follow-up to Being John Malkovich (from the creative team of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kauffman).

Alas, the return to form appears to be short-lived, for his latest, Sonny, which marks his debut as a director, has been roundly slated by the US media, who have already earmarked it as a strong contender for one of 2003’s worst movies.

Starring James Franco (of Spider-Man fame), the movie chronicles the adventures of a male hustler who joins the Army to escape his life as a gigolo. After being discharged, however, he heads home to New Orleans determined to get a proper job, only to find that his mother (Brenda Blethyn) wants him back in the family business.

Aside from Franco and Blethyn, the movie boasts a strong ensemble, including Cage himself (in a late cameo), Harry Dean Stanton, Mena Suvari and Scott Caan (of Ocean’s Eleven fame). But none of the major critics have been at all impressed, with some of the notices appearing particularly vitriolic.

All of which serves to compound Cage’s misery, for he is also facing the prospect of being sued by longtime TV writer, Robert Dellinger, 72, who has written for shows such as Starsky and Hutch and Kojak.

According to Variety, Dellinger is suing Cage and five production companies for copyright infringement, claiming that he has not got the credit he should be getting for the film.

The lawsuit, filed in August, is seeking more than $2 million in damages, as well as trying to prevent the sale of the film overseas.
Which brings us to...

The US critical reaction…

E! Online awarded it an F and described it as ‘shockingly inept’, while Film Journal International warned that ‘if a man cannot direct himself, he ought to think twice about directing others’.

Worse still, was Slant Magazine, which wrote: "That Franco still manages to evoke compassion for Sonny amidst the steaming piles of shit is a testament to his powers as an actor."

The New York Post awarded it one out of four and claimed that it was ‘an instant candidate for worst movie of the year’, while the New York Times described it as ‘emotionally incoherent’.

LA Weekly, meanwhile, said that it was ‘rancid from conception to culmination’, while Hollywood Reporter referred to it as ‘a thoroughly unconvincing melodrama’.

Village Voice concluded that ‘by the time Cage shows up as a gay, lemon-suited pimp with a pink-dyed poodle, Sonny has found a familiar level of irrelevance’.

On a slightly more upbeat note, Variety wrote that 'Cage makes an unusual but pleasantly haunting debut behind the camera', while Compuserve referred to it as 'an engrossing and grim portrait of hookers: what they think of themselves and their clients'.

But all in all, there was very little for Cage to console himself with. For we return to E! Online for the final verdict... 'Keep your day job, Nicolas Cage. This shockingly inept directorial debut reveals the brooding actor to be a hackneyed helmer'.

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