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Bel Air

A lukewarm contempo revamp of "Sunset Boulevard," Christopher Coppola's digital feature "Bel Air" sports some minor-key drollery and amusing performance riffs but lacks the more penetrating satire, sharply defined drama or stylistic definition previous versions of this tale boasted. Modest tube and cassette sales are signaled.

With:
Curson Beeley ..... Marc Coppola Agnes Fuchs ..... Barbara Bain Sara ..... Jennifer Rubin Morgan ..... Esteban Powell Rusty ..... Lou Rawls Gus ..... Charles Fleischer Lawyer ..... Ernie Mirich Manager ..... Brad Wyman Agent ..... Noah Blake

A lukewarm contempo revamp of “Sunset Boulevard,” Christopher Coppola’s digital feature “Bel Air” sports some minor-key drollery and amusing performance riffs but lacks the more penetrating satire, sharply defined drama or stylistic definition previous versions of this tale boasted. Modest tube and cassette sales are signaled.

Borrowing elements from both Billy Wilder’s original and Paul Morrissey’s 1972 “Heat,” screenplay has former TV child star Curson Beeley (Marc Coppola) reduced to pizza delivery, in which capacity he’s spied by retired broadcast exec Agnes Fuchs (Barbara Bain), who takes him in as her resident protege and stud-muffin. Pampered with new designer suits and other gifts, Curson finds he’s no longer viewed as a has-been. But while plans for his broadcast “comeback” gain steam, protag is increasingly rattled on other fronts: by Agnes’ erotic demands, by g.f. Sara’s (Jennifer Rubin) jilted fury, and by mysterious boils that erupt all over his skin.

Latter grotesque aspect is offbeat but leads nowhere in particular; indeed, whole pic is too casually slung together, with story threads underdeveloped and laughs at Hollywood’s expense at once familiar and mild. Though violent finale departs significantly from earlier “Sunset” spins, it too feels arbitrary and without point. Marc Coppola’s broadly comic, sad-sack lead makes little sense as a sex object. He’s out of synch with the better perfs here, none of which get sufficient screen time: Lou Rawls as Curson’s crusty pizza boss, Esteban Powell as Agnes’ oddball butler-chauffeur-grandson and, in particular, Bain’s coolly elegant, steely, sometimes bawdy benefactress.

Some underlit nighttime exteriors aside, tech aspects are OK. Accidental erasure of soundtrack forced filmmakers to screen pic at San Jose fest with a preliminary sound mix.

Bel Air

Production: A PlasterCITY Prods. production in association with Morgan Digital Studios. Produced by Alain Silver. Executive producers, Nicolas Cage, Christopher Coppola , Marc Coppola. Co-producers, Jack Oliver, Mark Ean, Jonas Hudson. Directed by Christopher Coppola. Screenplay, Nicholas Johnson.

Crew: Camera (color, digital), Richard Cantu; editors, Travis Spangler, Dan Perrett, Nate Bashor; music, Jim Fox; production designer, Isabelle Stamper; set decorator, Edouard Berret; sound, Daniel Mosberg; casting, Genette Tondino, Ted Warren. Reviewed at Cinequest San Jose Film Festival, March 5, 2000. Running time: 110 MIN.

With: Curson Beeley ..... Marc Coppola Agnes Fuchs ..... Barbara Bain Sara ..... Jennifer Rubin Morgan ..... Esteban Powell Rusty ..... Lou Rawls Gus ..... Charles Fleischer Lawyer ..... Ernie Mirich Manager ..... Brad Wyman Agent ..... Noah Blake

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