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THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Matt Craven

Directed by: Alan Parker
Written by: Charles Randolph
Produced by: Alan Parker, Nicolas Cage
Distributor: Universal Pictures

US: 21/02/03 UK: 14/03/03

David Gale is a devoted father, popular professor and respected death penalty opponent who finds himself on Death Row for the rape and murder of fellow activist Constance Harraway. With only three days before his scheduled execution, Gale agrees to give Pulitzer-hungry reporter Bitsey Bloom the exclusive interview she's been chasing. But Bitsey soon realizes that this assignment is more than she bargained for, and that a man's life is in her hands. Putting her own safety in jeopardy, she frantically races to piece together the shocking events surrounding Constance's death before it's too late.
MEDIA BUZZ
26 Feb/Associated Press: Spacey Tired of Death Penalty Questions
17 Feb/New York Post: Kate Winslet dismisses the media obsession about her weight

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"Look Kev, don't you think I should get a higher billing than Winslet. She's only a Brit for God's sake!"




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There's an extremely intriguing premise behind this film that makes it fascinating to watch, but only because of the thoughts it provokes. Alas, the film itself never rises above a mediocre and rather predictable drama. Top news-magazine journalist Bitsey (Winslet) is given the chance of a lifetime: To interview a man on death row over the last three days of his life. So off she goes to Texas, accompanied by a keen intern (Mann), to meet philosophy professor David Gale (Spacey), due to be executed for the brutal rape and murder of his colleague Constance (Linney). The irony is that David and Constance were once leading protestors against the death penalty. As David unfurls his story to Bitsey, new truths come to light. Bitsey thinks she might be able to save him.

The first half of the story is gripping in a whodunit sort of way, as we travel through David's story collecting hints and clues as to what happened and why. There are all sorts of red herrings along the way, some of them hint at a huge conspiracy, others at petty jealousies. And the adept cast make it compelling and very watchable (Linney is the standout, while Mann gives the film's most disarmingly authentic performance). Then it all starts to come together ... and if you've been paying attention, the full truth becomes quite obvious a full 45 minutes before the chilling final shot. Well, it would be chilling if we hadn't figured it all out 45 minutes earlier! The last act of the story is just so overwrought and self-important that it undermines both the strong narrative and any statement the film might have made about capital punishment. Throughout the film it feels like Parker has no faith in the audience, filling gaps with trite montages of meaningful words, dropping tantalizing hints everywhere and merely using life-and-death issues for cinematic purposes instead of engaging in any meaningful examination of the themes. s

REVIEW BY CAT BRIGHT
2.5 Popcorn Bags
Alan Parker's The Life of David Gale, starring Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet, tells the story of a man whose life has fallen apart, and his search for redemption. While the film keeps up a cracking pace, the end result is nothing more than a half-decent whodunit that aspires to loftier heights than it can reach.

Winslet is the unfortunately named Bitsey Bloom, a head-strong reporter for a major US newspaper chosen to interview the anti death-penalty spokesman David Gale just days before he is to be executed.

Philosophy professor Gale has called in Bitsey for a session of 'This Is My Life', so that he can be remembered as something more than a rapist and murderer. Bitsey, convinced of his guilt, is repelled by Gale but determined to complete the assignment to advance her own career.

Jumping headlong into the deep and meaningful, Professor Gale asks: what constitutes a worthwhile life? Apparently, it is living for your ideals.

Practising what he preaches is a little harder: His effectiveness as a spokesperson for death-penalty opponents Deathwatch is clouded by his ego and quick temper. Drunk at a party, he quickly falls victim to one of his more lusty students.

When he is accused of rape by said student, his charmed life quickly crumbles into alcoholism and despair and his search for redemption begins. David Gale's flaws of personality would've made a less complicated film more interesting. Instead, they muddle the message the film is trying to convey.

As a quickly melting Bitsey delves further, evidence comes to light that convinces her that Gale is innocent and she sets out to prove it.

Parker keeps the pace lively with twists and turns, but most in the audience will guess the final outcome long before the closing scene. Spacey on the whole turns in a good performance, as does Winslet who seems more comfortable when in emotional peril rather than as a hard nosed career woman. Laura Linney as the woman Gale is accused of murdering is consistently excellent.

Although the film brings up big issues it is incapable of making sense of them in a coherent way. It therefore makes no convincing arguments for or against the death penalty and even less on what constitutes a worthwhile life.

 


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