×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Hole in One

Writer-director Richard Ledes' "A Hole in One" is an offbeat romantic drama about cranial housecleaning, this time as part of the 1950s psychiatric healthcare explosion that led to lobotomies as treatment for everything from anxiety to insomnia. But this oddball tale of a small-town gangster's troubled girlfriend hovers uncertainly on the edge of an absurdist universe.

With:
Anna Watson - Michelle Williams Billy - Meat Loaf Tom - Tim Guinee Sammy - Louis Zorich Dr. Harold Ashton - Bill Raymond Dan - Wendell Pierce Betty - Merritt Wever

Like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” debuting writer-director Richard Ledes’ “A Hole in One” is an offbeat romantic drama about cranial housecleaning, this time as part of the 1950s psychiatric healthcare explosion that led to lobotomies as treatment for everything from anxiety to insomnia. But this oddball tale of a small-town gangster’s troubled girlfriend hovers uncertainly on the edge of an absurdist universe. Inconsistent exercise is never pushed far enough in any number of potentially intriguing directions, and despite stylish production values, will struggle to break beyond cable.

As the quack doctor pushing transorbital lobotomies intones, “To pursue forgetfulness is to pursue happiness.” That pursuit becomes the obsession of sweet but confused Anna (Michelle Williams), suffering from the emotional fallout of her shell-shocked brother’s death and the violent behavior of her pathologically jealous thug boyfriend Billy (Meat Loaf). The young woman’s search for clarity and peace is not helped by seeing movies like “The Snake Pit” in her downtime.

When neurologist Dr. Harold Ashton (Bill Raymond) comes to sleepy Icetown, U.S.A. during Mental Health Week in 1953 to advocate liberation through a simple outpatient surgery performed with an ice pick and mallet, Anna believes she’s found the answer. Billy appears to go along with her wish to undergo a lobotomy but secretly ropes in Tom (Tim Guinee), a mild-mannered guy on his payroll, to steer Anna away from the decision by posing as a rival doctor. Tom shows Anna the kind of sensitivity of which Billy is incapable, creating a bond that threatens the already unstable gangster.

Stitched around the concept that craziness is a relative state of mind, Ledes’ ambitious script attempts to take too many ideas on board — about radical thought, misguided medical advances, anti-Communist hysteria, ’50s naivete, media manipulation, Hiroshima and Ethel Rosenberg’s execution — making the film as thematically overburdened as it is laden with gratuitous stylistic flourishes. Perhaps the central problem is the lack of credible basis for the Billy-Anna relationship.

While the material might have been more convincing with an eccentric imagination like that of David Lynch or David Cronenberg behind it, Ledes wavers between a stilted, ’50s melodrama style, black humor and earnest realism within a fragmented structure with no emotional through-lines. The tonal uncertainty and unnatural-sounding dialogue is rough on the actors. Williams is sympathetic despite her character’s frustrating remoteness, but Meat Loaf is unable to bring either a human dimension or any real menace to Billy.

Stephen Kazmierski’s polished widescreen lensing and Bill Fleming’s period sets give the indie feature a sharp look, with Stephen Trask’s percussive score providing emotional nuance.

A Hole in One

Production: A Chapeau Films presentation of a Beech Hill Films production. Produced by Alexa L. Fogel, Joseph Infantolino. Directed, written by Richard Ledes.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Stephen Kazmierski; editor, Susan Graef; music, Stephen Trask; production designer, Bill Fleming; art director, Graham Caswell; costume designer, Jeanie Kimber; sound (Dolby Digital), Doug Johnston; assistant director, John Board; casting, Alexa L. Fogel, Mercedes Kelso, Jane Lew. Reviewed at SoHo House screening room, New York, April 6, 2004. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 97 MIN.

With: Anna Watson - Michelle Williams Billy - Meat Loaf Tom - Tim Guinee Sammy - Louis Zorich Dr. Harold Ashton - Bill Raymond Dan - Wendell Pierce Betty - Merritt Wever

More Film

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

  • M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Writing

    The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)

    Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: “Psycho,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Nashville,” “Chinatown,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), but whatever your taste, odds are that [...]

  • Andy Vajna Dead: 'Rambo' Producer and

    Andy Vajna, 'Rambo' Producer, Dies at 74

    Andy Vajna, executive producer of several “Rambo” films as well as “Total Recall” and several “Terminator” movies, died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74. The Hungarian National Film Fund confirmed his death, calling him a “dominant figure in the Hungarian and international film industry” who was responsible for the development of [...]

  • Glass trailer

    Box Office: 'Glass' Dominates MLK Weekend With $47 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” topped box office charts during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, collecting $40 million over the weekend for a four-day sum of $47 million. If estimates hold, “Glass” will come in behind “American Sniper” ($107 million) and “Ride Along” ($48 million) as the third-best showing for both January and MLK holiday [...]

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. Araiza [...]

  • 'St. Bernard Syndicate' Review: A Quietly

    Film Review: 'St. Bernard Syndicate'

    John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan may have received major award nominations this season for their fine work in “Stan & Ollie,” but there’s arguably a superior Laurel & Hardy tribute act to be found in the droll Danish comedy “St. Bernard Syndicate.” As a pair of bumbling losers who turn an already dubious business [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content