The Guys

"OK"

The Guys Review


There was much pain on September 11, 2001 when so many lives were lost. Some of it was very personal and close, but it's fair to say that it affected all of us, in America and abroad. How we remember it and mourn it is a personal matter; how we pay homage to it is something still being struggled with. The Guys is one woman's way of approaching the subject with the aim of catharsis through indirect exposure to the calamity we never imagined.

Journalist Anne Nelson wrote the play of the same name then adapted it as her first screenplay for this movie. Jim Simpson, whose only directorial credit is for a segment of Tales from the Crypt, directed it. The result is not so much a movie as it is a way to reflect on the nature of the loss we all experienced to one degree or another. In this respect, it's as universal a matter as the feelings that are still being experienced.

Nelson focuses on the individual lives of lost firemen who rushed into the World Trade Center towers to help people escape the devastation. The Guys are the men of a New York City fire department who performed their duty that terrible day.

The structure of the presentation is simple and direct, though some might argue that its single note for 98 minutes becomes wearying. That note is struck when Nick (Anthony LaPaglia), a fire chief, comes to writer Joan (Sigourney Weaver) in her upper west side apartment in New York to help him with eulogies for his men. Nick, a man of action, not words, can't think of what to say about his lost comrades. Joan sees this as a chance to make a contribution to the rehabilitation of the surviving families, to her city, to her country.

The problem for her is to elicit Nick's thoughts and feelings while he's possessed by the grief that has bottled them up. It's as much a psychotherapy session as it is a writing assignment. With a soft and sensitive approach, she gets her subject to open up and describe his men, one by one. Once started, he recounts their unique personal and professional qualities and renders a sense of loss in human terms. She takes his words and forges them into eulogies that strike exactly the right chords of meaning. The outpouring unleashes torrents of emotion while grafting in a bit of character humor now and then.

Indeed, the challenge in presenting this material is to break up the passive nature of a prolonged interview without straying too far away for infusions of dramatic relief. But, however clever Nelson has been in providing variation within the confines of her structure and staging, the question remains whether this should, indeed, have been presented as a theatrical release. More appropriate venues might have been cable, network TV, or as a documentary with the real fire captain on which it's based.

In the final minutes of the film, Nick takes the lectern at the church filled with family, friends, firemen, and Joan. He delivers as satisfying a eulogy as thoughtful and balanced words can make it.

Anthony LaPaglia reminds us of the depth of his emotional stockpile and the fundamental honesty of his performance skills which he last exhibited as the troubled policeman in Lantana. There probably couldn't be better choices than him and Weaver to bring this expression of unresolvable grief to us in an affecting package... and to retrieve it when it lapses toward the mawkish.

The main thing to consider is just how ready you are for this remembrance. For some, it could be a form of self-torture. But, if you're hesitating, go see it. It tends to reawaken us to the reality that we're all shipmates on the vessel Earth and that, no small part of the structure we depend on has been ignobly shattered by maniacal madmen that are still on board.



The Guys

Facts and Figures

Run time: 84 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 20th November 2003

Distributed by: Focus Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Fresh: 45 Rotten: 17

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Edward R. Pressman,

Starring: as Joan, as Nick, Irene Walsh as Joan's Sister, as Joan's Husband, Charlotte Simpson as Joan's Daughter, Julian Trompeter as Joan's Son, Katharine Schreiber as Sister's Daughter, Lucas DeBassac as Sister's Son, Joshua Ross as Sister's Infant, Alfredo Narciso as Diner Cashier, Julia Nelson Black as Acolyte

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