Bill Pullman as Rick at the Remote Lounge where he is cursed.
A Parable of Corporate America
Bill Pullman stars as an Everyman numbed by his daily routine and his grief
By STEVE ERICKSON
Rick, based loosely on Verdis opera Rigoletto, starts from the same premise of another movie now playing, The Corporationthat if the capitalist corporation were a person, it would be a psychopath.
Its not the most original notion. American Psycho, both the book and the film, involved the same conceit. However, Rick has more on its mind than shock value. Neil LaButes In The Company Of Men also comes to mind, but director Curtiss Clayton and screenwriter Daniel Handler arent misanthropes. In a world of casual cruelty, theyre interested in tracking the faint traces of heart and conscience.
Rick OLette (Bill Pullman) works for the Image Corporation. One day at work, he is supposed to interview Michelle (Sandra Oh), but instead blows her off to surf sports websites, humiliating her. That night, he runs into her where she works as a waitress, at the Remote Lounge, an East Village club filled with surveillance cameras, and manages to get her fired. In turn, Michelle places a curse on himYou are an evil person with an evil soul, and it will come right back at you. In the same club outing, Rick also offends his boss Duke (Aaron Stanford), who leaves, but runs into an old classmate, Buck (Dylan Baker). Buck hands him a cryptic business card and brags my own company will take the rat race to the next level. Rick learns Buck is a hitman, and soon after discovers that his teenage daughter Eve (Agnes Bruckner) has been corresponding with Duke in a sex chat room. Suddenly, he sees a need for Bucks services.
Despite the small budget ($1 million), Rick looks quite attractive. Clayton has a great eye for geometrical compositions, often including frames within frames. He likes filming off computer and video monitors, a technique that suggests that the characters are constantly under someone elses watch, echoing the paranoia suggested by the Remote Lounges surveillance cameras
The film presents an unusual view of Manhattan. There are few exteriors. Ricks office is surprisingly spacious. In fact, all the interiors seem too large and empty for comfort, especially when Rick and Eve race around a storage facility looking for his locker.
Michael Douglas spent much of the 1990s playing uptight, middle-aged jerks and would have been perfect for the role of Rick. Nonetheless, Pullman, whose face is puffy but still handsome, was an excellent choice. Its a fairly complicated part, since Rick starts out as such a jerk. In the films opening, hes the only person in his office who refuses to buy a $10 charity chocolate bar. As a conversationalist, hes curt. Handlers stylized dialogue in the early scenes suggests a David Mamet parody.
But Rick reaches an emotional breakthrough while talking with Eve in the oversized storage room, digging through old records. Only then does he recognize that corporate nastiness has numbed him morally and that his wifes death has numbed him emotionally. The real story of Rick lies in the way he tries to break out of that coldnessa little too late and also halfheartedly.
Clayton and Handler are more humanistic than Mamet or LaBute, but Im not sure if that helps or hurts. Though Rick clearly must change, once he does, the film never regains its early bracingly dark wit. As its protagonist becomes more complex, the film pulls more and more of its punches. The ending turns it into a fairly pat morality tale. Avoiding facile nihilism, it instead skirts sentimentality.
The film also strains for an anti-capitalist political allegory that doesnt quite work, since many of Ricks problems can be traced to his wifes death. A biting black comedy turns into a variation on Scrooged. Nevertheless, it puts its finger on a very real brand of modern heartlessness and anomie.