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Playmaker

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starring Colin Firth

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Table of Contents

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Film Facts
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Trivia
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Plot Summary
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Reviews
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General Comments
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Favorite Quotes
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Comments by Colin
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Web links
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Comments about Colin camera2.jpg (834 bytes) Main Roles Page Site
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Film Facts

    Title: Playmaker 

    Year: 1994 

    Company: Playmaker Productions 

    Running time:   91 minutes

    Rated:  R

    Colin's character: Ross Talbert/Michael Condren 

    Other cast: Jennifer Rubin (Jamie Harris), John Getz ( Eddie), Jeff Perry ( Allen), Arthur Taxier (Detective Chassman), Dean Norris (Detective Marconi), Belinda Waymouth (Angie), Diane Robin (Terry), Stephen Polk (Director), Alice Kushida (Casting Assistant), Clare Kirkconnell (Realtor), William James Shaw (Script Delivery Person)

    Producers: Thomas Baer, Cheryl Cook (line), Anna Godessoff (associate), Marc Samuelson, Peter Samuelson, Michael Steinhardt (executive)

    Director: Yuri Zeltser 

    Writers: Michael Schroeder (earlier screenplay), Kathryn Nemesh (as Kathryn Block), Darren Block, Yuri Zeltser 

    Original Music: Mark Snow 

    Cinematography: Ross Berryman

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Plot Summary

Playmaker is the story of an insecure but ambitious actress named Jamie Harris. Jamie feels stifled and trapped playing a brain-dead character in a TV soap opera. Her agent/lover won't help her bummed.jpg (8900 bytes)
She hangs out at a bar and pours out her problems to the bartender, Eddie, who finally breaks down and gives her a phone number which leads to an appointment with an acting coach, Ross Talbert. eddie.jpg (9047 bytes)
Ross has an unusual teaching method, and Jamie embarks on a journey of confusion, terror, and self-discovery. clown.jpg (9053 bytes)
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General Comments

The one redeeming quality of this film is the fact that Colin has an ample amount of screen time as he portrays two very different characters. Both characters are a departure from anything he has portrayed in other films and lack the depth of character which usually trademarks his films.
Michael seems to be an unassuming, mild-mannered, out of work American actor who accepts a job to act like an English acting coach (Ross) for the purpose of driving his student (Jamie) to desperate measures.
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We watch Jamie's fear grow as she is subjected to Ross' unorthodox teaching methods. wine.jpg (7674 bytes)
Jamie's fear climaxes when she enters a forbidden room to find pictures of previous students who have failed the course, and whose penalty was apparently death. Jamie Flunks
Ross finds her looking through his secret diary, approaches her looking very threatening, and Jamie takes the gun which was conveniently located with the diary, and shoots Ross. Jamie runs from the house, brings the police back to the scene of the crime to find that the man lying dead on the floor is not Ross.
While watching this film, it's important to keep in mind that Michael is an actor, playing the part of Ross. I mention this because of Ross' death scene, which Colin plays with a slightly overstated style, uncharacteristic of the subtlety expected from his performances. It is my belief that Colin played it this way purposefully, to convey the impression of an untrained actor's (Michael) portrayal of a death scene.
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Comments by Colin

The Sun, 27 August, 1994

MY DUFF JOB FOR THE BOY

by Karen Hockney

Colin Firth was doubly glad to star in new Ruth Rendell mystery MASTER OF THE MOOR. It wipes out memories of his last job - a Hollywood thriller The Playmaker, which he brands "complete rubbish." Colin, 34, who was kidnapped journalist John McCarthy in HOSTAGES, only did the film so he could be with Will, his three-year-old son by ex-lover Meg Tilly, also 34, the American actress. 

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He says: "My son happened to be in Los Angeles at the time. It was a three-week job and it paid extremely well. It's a rather silly story about an acting coach who trains an actress by psychologically torturing her. I knew it would be complete rubbish and I sincerely hope no one ever sees it." 
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Comments about Colin

At least three things contribute to this part being clear, sharp and sexy. (1) Playing Ross, Colin always has something to do. (2) As an actor, Ross' scenes are about standard things actors actually talk about, so he'd know the material, and the authority comes through. (3) He doesn't care what anybody thinks, and that's priceless. Characters who don't give a damn (and are cute) can be very engaging.
Because Colin knew where he was going in a scene, the actress had something to react to, and these scenes crackle (relatively speaking.) Neither Jamie nor the actress who plays her is forceful enough to engage Colin; she just barks. He was probably really limited by her, since in the shooting scene he picks up again just before he dies.
By the way, I don't think Colin was showing his own embarrassment on the rocks. It was Michael who was embarrassed and humiliated. Colin was definitely acting. I am convinced there's not one single moment in any of Colin's films in which he isn't in character. If anyone suspects otherwise, that, in my view, only reinforces Colin Firth's triumph as an actor.
Michael on the rocks
Let's talk PEARLS. That pearl scene, in my opinion, is Colin's finest hour in this film. He starts slow, builds the crescendo and it culminates when he grinds up the pearls.
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Trivia

Composer of the Playmaker score Mark Snow went on to compose for the US tv show The X-Files shortly after completing work on this film.

Director Yuri Zeltser attributes the deft interpretive skills of musical composer Mark Snow with successfully imparting Playmaker's theme of bizarre eroticism.



Playmaker commenced production ini August 1993, many months and several re-writes after the initial screenplay was obtained by producer Peter Samuelson from two people he'd seen at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Century Park East holding a sign reading "Need Money for Movie"


With the exception of a few scenes, the film was shot almost entirely in one location in Chatsworth, slightly north of Los Angeles--in a rather mysterious house once owned by the popular 1970s singing team,Captain and Tenille.

 
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Reviews

From Ziggy's Video Realm: Colin Firth in Playmaker (1994) 
Movie Review: Playmaker (1994). Rating: 2.5 out of 

“See you in a beer commercial!”

In Short

When the lead actor of a film is quoted in a newspaper describing the project by saying “I knew it would be complete rubbish and I sincerely hope no one ever sees it,” you just know that the end result is going to be a steaming pile the likes of which would scare even the most stalwart of litterbox attendants. Such is the case with Playmaker, an odd bit of mystery/suspense (badly mismarked as an “erotic thriller”) that comes across as jumbled at best and badly incoherent the rest of the time. Unless you happen to have a fetish for one of the cast members or a really bad case of insomnia and absolutely nothing better to do (including flossing), there’s really not much about this flick to recommend it to anyone. 

Synopsis

Jamie Harris (Jennifer Rubin, Amazons & Gladiators) is a down-on-her-luck, alcoholic, no-name actress whose career highlight thus far has been playing a comatose hospital patient for the past three months on a soap opera. She’s afraid that she’ll never get anywhere, and spends her evenings drowning her sorrows at the local watering hole, where she’s friends with the bartender, Eddie (John Getz, Requiem For A Dream). After watching Jamie lament yet again over a bottle of booze, Eddie suggests that perhaps she might benefit from the advice of an acting coach. In fact, there used to be another struggling actress who used to come to the bar whose career suddenly skyrocketed after she started going to one coach in particular whose name Eddie happens to know, a certain Ross Talbert (whom we later meet in the form of Colin Firth, Conspiracy). Figuring that she has nothing to lose aside from $5000 worth of coaching fees, Jamie decides to give it a try.  However, she’ll soon discover that Talbert’s teaching methods are more than just a bit unorthodox, and there’s far more to what’s happening than meets the eye, something that promises to be quite deadly…

In Detail

Oh, where to begin with this hour and a half’s worth of cinematic train wreck.

Just about every aspect of Playmaker is a disaster, from the ludicrous script to the poor direction to the awful casting. When the lead actor himself is declaring that it’s “a silly story” and that his primary motivation for being involved was that it was “a three week job and it paid extremely well” and just happened to be filming in the same city where his son was at the time, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, and after watching this flick, it’s easy to see why the man would prefer to distance himself from this celluloid lutefisk factory. There’s no getting around the fact that Playmaker is just plain bad.

Beginning with the story first, it just doesn’t make any sense, in almost every way possible. It starts off plainly enough with the insecure drunk actress, lamenting her languid career and lack of talent, who suddenly gets handed an opportunity to study with this fabulous acting coach. Okay, fine. Then the audience sees that this coach is a little on the eccentric side, bordering on the mildly insane with his screaming and microphone tricks and flashing cameras at the dinner table and whatnot. Still okay. And then the insanity turns to stupidity, as Jamie’s already weak character does an inexplicable one-eighty and goes a little nutbar herself, followed quickly by what looks to be a startling final revelation scene… a scene that occurs barely halfway into the movie’s posted runtime. This is really starting to feel wrong, and  when something that looks and feels like a complete ending occurs with more than a half hour of screen time left to go... Uh –oh… What follows from that point on is something utterly bizarre and out of place that just does not fit what went on before at all, feeling tacked on, forced, and beyond hokey. All of the characters are essentially rewritten, events occur that make no sense and simply do not gel with what has already happened on screen, and quite frankly, the overall quality of the writing, which was already bad, gets even worse. True, one would be hard pressed to guess the ending to this flick in advance, but when it comes down to that point, so what? A surprise ending that makes no sense is no asset to the picture, and by the time the credits are ready to roll, the story has switched gears so hard that the audience has gotten whiplash and is simply beyond caring. To fully articulate everything that is wrong with what happens to the characters here would be to spoil too much of the plot (such as it is); however, what I will say is that both leads as they appear in the final third of the film do not gel at all with what happens in the first.

By and large, the direction is too poor to do the screenplay any favors. Director Yuri Zeltser (Eye of the Storm) seems incapable of creating even the slightest amount of tension and suspense, even when the characters on screen literally have guns pointed at them. All of the supposed tension in Playmaker is artificial and forced; at no time is there ever a real feeling of suspense or thrill, not even once. Zeltser tries to fake it with some artsy camera work (and to his credit there are one or two clever moments – a reflection in a coffee cup, for example – but nothing at any time that would make this film look or feel like an actual  "thriller”), but ends up failing completely at every turn. One scene in particular involving the alcoholic Jamie chasing after a wine bottle in a wheelchair that ends up with her knocking the bottle over and licking up the puddle of wine from the floor is just plain embarrassing, and more than almost any other single moment speaks to the cheesiness of this movie. This attempt at “faking it” with the tension is augmented by an overblown score by Mark Snow (yes, the guy from “The X-Files”), which commits the horrible mistake time and time again of bringing up heavy, ominous musical cues that lead into absolutely nothing, constantly setting up the audience for thrills that never arrive, thus bringing about the exact opposite effect of aggravation and boredom instead. Combine that with Zeltser’s blatant telegraphing of any allegedly “suspenseful surprise” events long in advance of when they actually are going to happen, and the disaster is complete. 

Then there’s the absurd labeling of Playmaker as “an erotic thriller”. Whoever decided this was an appropriate categorization must have been incredibly hard up at the time, because this flick is neither erotic nor thrilling. The lacks of thrills have already been covered; having a few statically presented butt shots of Colin Firth in the shower (and a quick forward shot of him stepping out that doesn’t quite reveal anything), one dishwater-dull topless scene of Jennifer Rubin lying on her back, an almost comically ludicrous faux-sex scene shot through thick glass block that involves her screaming a lot while the audience watches two vague flesh-colored blobs, and a suggestion of off-camera oral sex hardly put this at or anywhere near the level of Basic Instinct or Jade (or even The Specialist, for that matter, and that’s not exactly an “erotic thriller”, either). Someone in marketing was reaching just a bit too far trying to peg such a label on  Playmaker.

With regard to the film’s casting, it’s just wrong, all the way across the board, though at different levels. Granted, on the one hand, Jennifer Rubin has the initial concept of Jamie the untalented actress whose most convincing role is playing a character who’s brain dead down pat, but for everything that follows, it’s hard to escape the fact that she makes the character so damn annoying. Who cares if she’s in mortal danger? After fifteen minutes of watching Rubin whine, the viewers are ready to pay someone to kill her themselves. As the story progresses, Rubin falls more and more out of her depth (she is no match for her costar), and by the final scenes, she’s not only out of her depth, but so utterly awful that Jamie’s solution of drinking heavily in response to any given situation doesn’t seem like such a bad way to go. Someone the likes of Shannon Tweed or Joan Severance would have made for far more appropriate casting for this role; Jennifer Rubin just can’t hack it here. 

I’m not even going to get into Jeff Perry (Body of Evidence) as Jamie’s agent; if I start going there, I’ll have to start drinking. 

On the other side of the coin, there’s Colin Firth, for whom the question could appropriately be asked: what the bloody hell is he doing in this godawful flick? Firth is dreadfully miscast in the lead role for this film – mainly because it’s far beneath the level of his talent – and he knows it, but then again, he’s already explained that he took the part essentially because he was in the neighborhood and it was easy money on a short schedule. It’s obvious that Firth is suffering as an artist throughout the picture, forced to dumb down the role to the level that the screenplay and the director demand. Even so, however, it is Firth alone who manages at certain points to keep Playmaker watchable in spite of the best efforts of those around him to consign it to the pits of eternal drek. Perhaps the best example is the garbage disposal scene, where he manages to hold interest and create some form of tension through sheer force of will even though the director is at the same time doing his damnedest to kill any suspense with a series of dull and ill-conceived camera cuts that make a similar scene in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later look like art. Things only go downhill from there. Firth does the best job possible with the material presented to him, and it is essentially his effort alone that keeps this flick’s rating out of the basement, but there’s only so much the man can do. What a relief it must have been to do “Pride & Prejudice” a year later and leave crud like this behind him for good.

One final point has to be made with regard to the make up, etc. as applied to the two leads. As if the character of Jamie and the performance involved weren’t distractingly annoying enough, what is with the godawful pageboy haircut they give her?  (Is that supposed to add to the film’s “erotic” element, pray tell?) And why, oh why, must poor Colin Firth be made up to look like an adult version of Buffy and Jody from “A Family Affair”? Isn’t he suffering enough here already without having to look like he was raised by Mr. French?

In the end, there’s just no getting around it: Playmaker is, indeed, “complete rubbish”, as its own lead actor so eloquently puts it. However, unlike Mr. Firth, I encourage others to see it, just to spread the suffering around. Just realize in advance that this movie is neither erotic nor thrilling (unless a couple quick shots of Colin Firth’s butt really get you going), and that with the exception of watching the lead actor suffer through a part farther beneath him than the Marianas Trench, there is pretty much nothing worthwhile going on with this meandering, nonsensical movie, and that once the ending rolls around, you may be suddenly overcome with the unbearable urge to slap somebody.

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Web Links

 
 
 
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Region1 dvd cover
[coming soon]

Region 2 cover

Credits

  • Page text and graphics by Eileen Smythee
  • Page layout based on design by Lisa W
 
 
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