The Big Empty - Press Archive - Zap2It
20 November 2003
- By Holly Aguirre
- Steve Anderson's directing debut is
a respectable effort starring Jon Favreau,
- Rachael Leigh Cook, Joey Lauren Adams,
Sean Bean, Kelsey Grammer, Daryl
- Hannah and a plethora of B-actors. Half
the fun of the film is seeing who
- will show up next.
- Anderson's feature "The Big Empty,"
which he also penned, is a dark comedy
- set mostly in the desert of Baker, Calif.
Baker, home of the world's largest
- thermometer, is a nowhere town somewhere
between Death Valley and
- Las Vegas.
- Favreau is a dull, down-on-his-luck
actor unable to pay the rent, but able to
- afford new headshots. The story begins
when Favreau's Walter Mitty-esque
- character, John Person, is asked to
deliver a mysterious suitcase to the middle
- of the desert by his annoying neighbor,
played by Bud Cort ("Harold and Maude,"
- "Dogma"). Upon delivery, John's
mounting debt will be eliminated.
- Adams ("Chasing Amy"), in
the role of the cute girl door next door, Grace,
- warns him of the dangers of heading
out of L.A. in the middle of night, but, of
- course, he goes.
- Once in Baker he begins meeting a series
of misfits and miscreants, square
- pegs lost and going nowhere. The characters
are stereotypical, but pay tribute
- nicely to their '50s film noir counterparts.
Hannah's turn as the sexy bartender
- provides relief to Grammer's over-the-top
FBI agent who is writing a screenplay.
- Cook is Hannah's stepdaughter, Ruthie,
whom she found at the age of two
- wandering the desert, although it is
hard to believe that Hannah's character
- has actually remained in the podunk
town for that many years.
- Finally, enter Bean, as the strange
and violent Cowboy, to whom the bag is to
- be delivered. We mostly just hear about
Cowboy, whom everyone in town has
- seen and consequently fears. When he
finally enters the picture, he is indeed
- violent, killing a man and holding a
gun to Grace's head; however, we're
- supposed to believe that his character
just really wants to help people find a
- better life.
- This flawed character and a mysterious
Band-Aid are a couple of the plot holes
- in this film. The overall picture, though
entertaining, would have been fine on
- HBO or Showtime.
- Anderson, a veteran cameraman of PBS
documentaries and news footage,
- covered the riveting true story of the
Heaven's Gate mass suicide in March
- of 1997 for CNN. In a home near San
Diego, 39 people were found dead,
- dressed in matching sweat suits and
Nike sneakers. The victims, lead by
- Marshall Applewhite, apparently believed
they were going to meet a UFO
- hiding behind the Hale-Bopp comet. No
doubt that would leave an impression
- on anyone on the scene.
- Perhaps that is where Anderson derived
his inspiration for "The Big Empty,"
- a script he had shelved for almost four
years. A real-life account might prove
- more interesting, but we can probably
count on Anderson for another decent
- feature or two.