The Leading Man


          Is it me or does it seem that everyone nowadays gets a chance
  to be in movies? There used to be a fairly strict demarcation: singers
  sang, dancers danced, actors acted. Sure there were the occasional
  exceptions like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby in the 1940s and 50s
  and the Beatles in the 60s (although let's face it, none of them gave
  Laurence Olivier anything to worry about). Today, it just seems that
  every rocker and rapper is being offered movie deals. Sure Will Smith
  was terrific fighting aliens and Marky Mark has metamorphosed into
  Mark Wahlberg, but Bret Michaels (of Poison) as a director (in
  partnership with Charlie Sheen, no less!) not to mention the Spice Girls.
  And while we're at it, let's not forget the actors who turn the tables
  and attempt recording careers. Who recalls William Shatner's foray
  into singing. Let's not forget the albums recorded by Bruce Willis or
  Eddie Murphy. (Actually, let's try to.)

          This is a roundabout way of noting the burgeoning acting career of
  Jon Bon Jovi. If you blinked, you missed him get killed at the beginning
  of
Young Guns II (1990). He acquitted himself nicely in Moonlight and
    Valentino
, but honestly, all he had to do was look handsome and wear
  tight jeans well (which admittedly he accomplished). The real test of
  his abilities came with the titular role in John Duigan's dark comedy
  
The Leading Man. And the verdict? Well, the jury is still out. My
  initial reaction was "Oh, dear! He's just not cut out for this." (or words
  to that effect). But as time has passed and I reflect back on the film,
  I have a better appreciation for what he did achieve. Part of the
  problem lies in the fact that he was not really playing a full-blooded
  character but a conceit, the ambitious performer willing to do anything
  for his career. After really thinking about it, I figured out what was
  wrong. Jon Bon Jovi just seems too nice. His character, American
  action film star Robin Grange, required a hint of danger, a soupçon
  of cruelty. Try as he might, Bon Jovi just came across as too
  wholesome. Oddly though, it did not have a detrimental effect on
  the overall proceedings.

          The film sets up an elaborate roundelay of lovers. Married
  playwright Felix wants to leave his wife Elena for his new love but
  the Italian-born Elena is a bit of a loose cannon. (She takes a pair of
  scissors to her husband's wardrobe.) Robin, who has come to London
  to star in Felix's play, offers to help by seducing Elena thereby
  distracting her and allowing Felix to have free reign with his new
  girlfriend. What follows are unexpected complications. The cast is
  uniformly fine. French singer-actor Lambert Wilson makes a fine
  tortured Felix. The beautiful Anna Galiena literally blossoms during
  her fling with Robin. Thandie Newton as a pivotal member of the
  cast also shines. Bon Jovi in certain scenes is more than adequate,
  while in others his lack of training shows. Undoubtedly, this will be a
  pit stop on the road to a fine and long film career for him. Unlike some
  of his contemporaries (who should be discouraged from trying to act),
  Bon Jovi clearly has talent. It is just not fully shaped enough for him
  to have attempted so large a role at this stage in his career.
  Give him an A for effort, C for execution.


                                  Rating:               C+
                                  MPAA Rating:      R for some language and sexuality
                                  Running time:     100 mins.
© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.