The Dying Gaul Craig Lucas

I always hate it when the movie I think I’m watching turns out to be better than the one that gets revealed three reels in. Alas, The Dying Gaul is one of those cases. It starts out provocatively when a gay screenwriter (Peter Sarsgaard) is offered a million-dollar payment for his latest script. Sadly, the producer (Campbell Scott) wants him to change the script’s romantic pairing from homo to hetero. The writer agrees and is ushered into the producer’s life, not only befriending the power broker’s wife (Patricia Clarkson) but sharing his bed as well. Everything is set up for an exploration of integrity, both personal and professional, until the wife accidentally gets wind of the affair and, for revenge, imitates the writer’s dead lover in an internet chat room. What was modest and understated segues into wild melodrama without even noticing — the look and the pace is understated but things get more and more ridiculous until you start talking back to the screen. Good performances all around (especially from Sarsgaard and Clarkson) can’t save the jerry-built nature of the whole enterprise, which throws in trendy Buddhism as a palliative and ends things with the most puzzling act of homicide in the history of cinema. I’m still trying to figure out the point of that ending, though in hindsight the rest of the film is just as enigmatic — not that it’s complex, just confused. Steve Reich’s music is a comfort throughout, though he seems to be more shown off as a classy reference than sensibly integrated into the action. Extras include three deleted scenes and an alternate ending that’s just as shrug-worthy as the one that made the cut. (Mongrel Media)