The Big Empty - Press Archive - AICN

 

Source: AICN 23 March 2003

Let's move on to bowling ball loving aliens in dusters... And Rachael Leigh Cook being ungodly cute. THE BIG EMPTY really premiered at the AFM (despite what some other reviews and Professor Moriarty have claimed this film DID NOT play at Sundance). It centers on Jon Favreau's John Person, an out of work actor who got a tiny taste of success with a starring role on a short lived television show. He now has to run a delivery service between auditions to keep his head above water. His credit card debt is nasty, he's not getting any callbacks and he's masturbating a little too frequently.

He does have a good relationship with the cutie across the hall (played by Joey Lauren Adams), but that seems to be all he has going for him at this point in his life. One day a weirdo in a neck brace pays him a visit, offering a tidy sum of cash if Favs'll courier a suitcase to Baker, California. Bud Cort plays the skittish, paranoid freakshow well. Maybe a little too over the top, but not distractingly so. What's in the case is a mystery, the man he's meeting, a trucker named Cowboy, is a mystery, but what the hell? What's he got to lose?

Baker is a weird place, man. The movie certainly takes many liberties, but I've been to Baker... Early last year I drove through Baker on my way to Vegas from LA in celebration of my 21st Birthday. I was invited to stop by the shooting of this film. I spent all of 2 hours onset, just enough time to meet up with Favs and watch him film a scene with Jon Gries, probably best known as Lazlo from REAL GENIUS (or the wolf man in MONSTER SQUAD). What I saw had me intrigued, but I never really had any real grasp on what they were trying to do.

At any rate, Baker was a really weird place. A small desert town with a hint of madness lurking within. I got that from the 120 minutes I was there. God knows what the folks shooting this film uncovered in that town. If the movie is any indication of the weirdness that town has to offer I won't hurry back there any time soon... Unless Rachael Leigh Cook, wearing her low cut pants and high cut shirt, sends the invite. Grrrrrr.

So, the final film feels like a mixture of REPO MAN and TWIN PEAKS with a little SWINGERS thrown in for flavor. Off the wall characters come out of the woodwork at a steady rate. The longer Favreau stays in Baker, the more insane his surrounding becomes. His near misses with Cowboy serve to complicate his life, keeping him trapped in his shitty little motel room.

Let's have a character run down, shall we?

John Person - We already know about him. Hapless out of work actor thrown into this nutty world.

Grace - Joey Lauren Adams, Favreau's neighbor across the hall. Is she just a friend? Could she be more? Is she involved with the mystery surrounding the suitcase Favs is transporting? One thing's for sure, she's cute as hell, as usual.

Ruthie - Rachael Leigh Cook's character, a little hottie resident of Baker. She yearns to get out of town, but is tied there by her mother (Daryl Hannah) and abusive boyfriend (WINDTALKER'S Adam Beach). She's flirty yet innocent, the kind of girl you just want to get up and hug she's so cute. Her relationship with Favreau is classic and the glue that binds the film together. Good lord she's so damn hot in this movie...

Stella - Daryl Hannah's character. She's the lady behind the bar, mother of Ruthie. Hannah's almost unrecognizable in the film, to the point where I didn't realize it was her while watching, even though I was looking for her. Hannah's on a roll. She's great in this film, really showcasing her talent as an actress. With this and KILL BILL, she's going to be a hot commodity.

Agent Banks - Kelsey Grammer's role of a UFO obsessed FBI agent. It's little more than a cameo, but it's still really funny. Grammer plays it over the top to perfection. His back and forth with Favreau will keep you in stitches.

Elron - Jon Gries's character, the wacky motel owner who constantly forces himself upon Favreau. No, not that way... He's just one of those personalities that always needs to be talking, forcing their character on someone. Gries hits and misses with this character, but never to the point of being annoying. When he hits, he really hits. When he doesn't, it's usually just something that goes on too long. Is he an alien? Are there aliens? Would it be weirder if he was human? hmmmm...

Randy - Adam Beach playing the abusive boyfriend of Rachael Leigh Cook's character. How on earth could anybody possibly harm a hair on the head of Rachael Leigh Cook? It's like hitting a puppy. If you can hurt something that cute on purpose then you deserve a slow and painful death. Beach does a good job keeping his character sympathetic and likable when not abusing my poor little Cooky.

Cowboy - One of my favorite characters in the film. Boromir was my favorite character in FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, due mainly to how perfectly Sean Bean played him. Bean shines as the duster wearing mystery man. When you see him in cowboy boots, duster and cowboy hat you can't help but marvel at Bean's persona. This man was made to be a Cowboy. He keeps his accent for this role, which works for this film as you're not supposed to know where Cowboy comes from be it Earth or someplace other. I'd love love love to see Sean Bean heading up a western. His cold, steel blue eyes shoot out like knives from under the brim of his hat. To quote Jon Peters, "He has the eyes of a fucking killer." More Sean Bean, please.

That's most of the main characters. You have some other smaller cameo characters, but I won't ruin those moments.

Props go to director Steve Anderson. This movie is so all over the place it could have been a huge mess, but he was able to focus the great talents of the cast into one streamlined story. It's a wavvy line, but wavvy in a good way!

So, is the movie about Aliens? What's in the briefcase? Even better, what's in the bowling bag? Could it be a human head? Who's The Cowboy really? What do those Band-Aids on the neck mean? How does Ruthie fit in? How does Grace fit in? Is this all in John Person's mind? Some of those questions are answered in the film, some are left open for you to decide.

This isn't an easy movie to describe. It's part sci-fi, part drama, part comedy, part mystery, part thriller and part what the fuck!?!? In other words, this movie has cult written all over it. There will be people who fall in love with this film and quote it on a daily basis. There will be some people who just won't comprehend the film. Will it get a release? I'm sure it will. There are too many names in the film for it to be passed up. Will it get theatrical distribution? I think it'd be a crime if this film didn't play in art houses across the country. I'll keep my eyes and ears open for you folks and let you know when it gets picked up.

-Quint

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