The Other Man Richard Eyre

The Other Man Richard Eyre
Set in the glamorous fashion capitals of Europe, The Other Man boasts a first-rate cast (Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Antonio Banderas), a Shakespearean director, glossy cinematography and an impressive literary pedigree (based as it is on a novel by Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader). It is also one of the most impressive misfires in a long time. To watch it is to understand why it went straight to DVD. The story focuses on the grief of a husband (Neeson) when his fashionista wife (Linney) vanishes from his life. When he uncovers emails from his wife's secret lover (Banderas), and photographic evidence of their affair, he tracks Banderas down in Milan. The two forge an unlikely friendship over chess games in a café, with Banderas unaware of Neeson's identity. Several laborious exchanges about "capturing the queen" later, it turns out Banderas is not who he seems, etc., etc. A blurb on the DVD case promises "several surprising plot twists," and that's not the half of it. The film is almost as big a shaggy-dog story as The Big Lebowski, although handled with the utmost solemnity. The trouble is, the filmmakers never find the right tone, so everything from the big reveal to Neeson's hammy rages to Banderas's jokey playfulness seem equally out of wack. Those of us who read The Reader but not this book may imagine all the shifts and surprises handled with a spare elegance on the page, but Eyre's film is incredibly ham-fisted. The director comes across as very thoughtful and erudite in his commentary, when discussing his editing choices, the actors and so on, so it's painful to look at the finished product, as gorgeous as the images sometimes are, and see such a misguided whole. The only person who comes across unscathed is Linney, who carries off her part with a beautiful subtlety otherwise totally lacking. The other extras consist of the trailer, and cast and crew interviews, suggesting everyone had a good time making the film. That's a relief. (E1)