The Walker Paul Schrader

The Walker Paul Schrader
This latest film by writer/director/critic Paul Schrader is also apparently the last in a series of portraits of marginal loners that have dotted his career, beginning famously with Scorsese’s Taxi Driver in 1976, and proceeding through 1980’s American Gigolo and 1992’s woefully unsung Light Sleeper. Like Gigolo, the film concerns a wilfully superficial man who makes a living as a companion to wealthy older women. In this case, he is not selling sex but amusing patter and a willingness to accompany the wives of politicians to the ballet — a "walker,” in society parlance. Carter Page III (Woody Harrelson) descends from a line of Southern politicians but is himself a genteel, semi-closeted gay man revelling in his role as favoured gossip and bridge partner of the Washington ladies’ elite. When one of the wives (Kristin Scott-Thomas) risks involvement in a murder investigation, Carter intervenes, covering up on her behalf. He then finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy, threatened with death and worse, ostracism. The walker’s life crisis and display of heroic resolve are the heart of the film. Scrupulously intelligent and polished as it is, with the card-playing banter some of Schrader’s sharpest dialogue ever, The Walker suffers from a certain over-explicitness in places, a tendency to underline its thematic points too strongly. Also, the casting of Harrelson is very much a stretch, and feels like one. Outfitted with a luxurious coiffure and false teeth, and speaking with an effeminate, raspy drawl suggesting a merger of Brando and Capote, the performance seems too much like an impersonation at first. As the story and character develop, however, his grip on the character deepens and you realise how compelling an actor he can be. The paucity of extras on the DVD (just a trailer and a brief, perfunctory "making of”) indicates the lack of attention and box office accorded the film, which is unfortunate. Like most of Schrader’s perennially underrated work, it certainly deserves to be seen. (Seville)