The Big Empty - Press Archive - Zap2It Review


Source: 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.


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