A tepid drama that starts out looking like a routine erotic-thriller but ends up as something even less interesting, Scott Saunders' feature is a movie in search of a raison d'etre. Any suspense is a red herring, portended kinkiness never arrives, characters are uninvolving, and there's little going on stylistically. Next stop, cable.

A tepid drama that starts out looking like a routine erotic-thriller but ends up as something even less interesting, director/co-writer Scott Saunders’ soph feature (following the fairly well-received “Headhunter’s Sister”) is a movie in search of a raison d’etre. Any suspense is a red herring, portended kinkiness never arrives, characters are uninvolving, and there’s little going on stylistically. Next stop, cable.

Titular Jessup (Michael Harris) is a 40-ish hermit who leaves his basement hovel in a Manhattan high-rise only to accept takeout deliveries for aged, dying Camille (Pamela Gordon) upstairs. But newly arrived, glitzy married tenants Slim (Tatum O’Neal) and Joe (William Forsythe) become pushy, for no obvious reason, about getting him into their social swing — which involves “swinger” sex parties. He’s not tempted. But on a bet with her spouse, Slim continues laying siege to Jessup’s misanthropic isolation, eventually getting him past agoraphobic panic attacks and into her bed. Once he’s hooked, however, Joe returns, and Slim distances herself. Central relationship is wanly realized (partly due to O’Neal’s dull perf), while protag’s more intriguing one with cranky old boho Camille meanders through poorly shaped scenes. Tech/design aspects are blah.

The Technical Writer

Production

A Damage Control Prods., Mill Ridge Films and Susie O Prods. presentation. Produced by Scott Saunders, Michael Harris, Jim Calabrese, Susan Leber, David W. Leitner. Executive producers, Michael Yanko, Lisa Green. Directed by Scott Saunders. Screenplay, Saunders, Michael Harris.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), David W. Leitner; editor, David Leonard; music, Stephen Cullo; production designer, Jory Adam. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Dramatic Competiton), Jan. 21, 2003. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Michael Harris, Tatum O'Neal, William Forsythe, Pamela Gordon, Oksana Lada, Natalia Novikova, John Lanzillotto.

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