Sep 24, 2008

Nick Nolte, no one wants your creepy box of porn.

Simpatico (2000)
How much can three friends share?

What happens when passion and greed surface in the heart of Kentucky's stunning thoroughbred country? Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone, and Jeff Bridges star as three friends who share the bond of a crime they committed 20 years ago. When their secret surfaces, it threatens to unravel the tightly woven fabric of their lives. Now, they must decide how far they will go to keep the secret buried -- or whether to face the consequences of setting things right, in this electrifying drama about the good and evil friends share.

I have wanted to watch this for a while, ever since someone said the best part of this movie was watching the horse in question (Simpatico) run in a paddock for about ten seconds. As you can imagine, the rest of it must be beyond bad. It's not really beyond bad. It's just that it tries in vain for some deep meaning that it completely misses, finding itself in some pornographic quagmire. Pornographic quagmire? Surely that must be interesting! No, no it really isn't. So here we go.

This is Carter. Commonly known as Jeff Bridges. He owns a thoroughbred breeding (and one would assume training, given there is a track there) farm somewhere south of Lexington. We know this because Vinnie (Nick Nolte) starts the movie by circling it several times on a map, as if he could have possibly forgotten where his friend's horse farm is.

This is Vinnie. He spends most of his time drinking and littering. And waving a loaded gun at home films someone took of him and Carter when they were younger. He calls up Carter and starts up this sob story about how some woman is charging him with assault and how he needs his help and he has to come now or the police might shake the awful story of their collective past out of him, ruining everyone's lives. So Carter drops everything (everything being selling Simpatico to Arab interests) and flies to California. Where he meets Vinnie in his ramshackle bachelor pad.

Vinnie convinces Carter to go talk to the woman and convince her not to charge him with whatever crime it is that he committed. They also talk about these photographs that Vinnie keeps in a shoe box he has scotch taped to death. (Yes, the photographs are porn. Obviously.) On the way there, Vinnie drinks some more and makes a crack about Carter's wife, which results in road raging and angry shoving. During this time there's some Important Information dropped about this guy they figuratively and literally screwed (well, the younger Sharon Stone did the screwing, but we'll get to that later) who changed his name and became a bloodstock agent in Kentucky. Vinnie asks Carter if someone doesn't, you know, recognize him and Carter shouts, "He changed his name!" As if that changes what he looks like? Well, whatever. They have to go chat up Cecelia, the lady who Vinnie loves and possibly assaulted.

Back at the farm, the Arab interests are watching Simpatico cover a mare.

And they're taking pictures. And filming it. This is TOTALLY mirroring the porn in Vinnie's shoe box, in case anyone was curious. And yes, this is the movie trying to be smart. Incidentally, the action they're watching is just a horse rearing repeatedly, whereas the camera is filming prerecorded footage of a live cover.

Carter has tea with Cecelia (Catherine Keener), who tells him she has no idea what Vinnie is talking about. Vinnie, meanwhile, steals Carter' s rental and drunk drives himself to the airport, where he flies to Kentucky with this shoe box of photos. The photos Carter wants. For some reason. Carter then goes berserk looking for the photos and makes Cecelia drive him around in her VW Bug. Vinnie goes to find this bloodstock agent guy that they screwed way back when and tells him about the photos in a roundabout way which results in bloodstock agent guy basically telling him off because he's not interested in getting his life back. Vinnie is depressed about this. No one wants his shoe box of porn! Woe is him. Except bloodstock agent guy calls up Carter (I guess they know each other, or something, outside of the aforementioned screwing) and tells him that Vinnie was there with the photos and Carter flips out and has Cecelia go to Kentucky with a ton of money so she can buy the photos. She initially doesn't want to do this, but he offers to get her these fantastic box seats to the Kentucky Derby. He even buys her a dress. So she goes to Lexington to talk to bloodstock agent guy. Observe:

Bloodstock agent: Wow, you're pretty. I'm going to unbutton my shirt and take off my shoes and talk about how pretty you are. Blood is rushing to...places. If you get my meaning.
Catherine: Um, this is uncomfortable. Wait, you're that guy in the porn photos! Oh my God!

This results in a "meaningful" conversation at Churchill Downs. How or why they got there, I don't know. Apparently Hollywood thinks Churchill Downs is in Lexington? Well, whatever. At least her extreme revulsion to his pervyness has convinced him to button his shirt and put his shoes back on. This doesn't stop him from coming on to her later at the airport and later promise to stalk her at the Kentucky Derby when she comes back in May. Creep. Seriously.

So, while that's happening, Carter is getting all drunk in California because Vinnie stole his wallet and he can't get home (Dude, it's called a private plane. Get one.) while the Arab guys are busy dining on his front lawn. Vinnie shows up at the farm and talks to Rosie, who used to be his girlfriend before he convinced her to have sex with the bloodstock agent guy so they could blackmail him into turning a blind eye to their ringer operation that I guess made Carter rich? I don't know how he managed to get Simpatico (a Triple Crown winner...of course he is), but he did and he basically bought Three Chimneys on top of it. Who knows. So, Vinnie goes to see Rosie and does this really pathetic attempt to get her to run away with him? Maybe? By showing her porn? That she's in? I don't know where that was going or what the motivations were there, but regardless Rosie is not impressed. She steals Vinnie's gun and threatens him and then kicks him out.

So Rosie calls Carter, who is still probably drunk, who tells her that Simpatico is going to be infertile in six months (they just know this, like you can track fertility to a point where you know exactly when it stops...I don't know if this is possible. I'd bank on it being false.) Rosie gasps and says, "But they'll kill him!" Because Triple Crown winning stallions are killed after their fertile days are over, of course. Uh-huh. Carter dismisses this, saying Simpatico has had a great life. Who cares if some Arab guys kill him, right? Rosie is not pleased with this idea and goes off to ride Simpatico barefoot in her evening gown. One of Simpatico's future owners looks up from the party and his expression can only be: wtf?

So as he's watching this crazy woman gallop the Triple Crown winner around in her evening gown, Carter and Vinnie gather up wood to burn the porn. They burn the porn. That's not interesting, because we all knew the porn wasn't important to begin with. This means that the entire story wasn't important to begin with. It's basically a waste of film. What is the most astonishing scene is the end of Sharon Stone's random barefoot gallop in her evening gown. Because she takes the horse out to some secluded paddock, pulls his saddle off, whips Vincent's gun out of...her underwear? what?...and shoots the horse in the head.

Then she sits next to the dead horse and I guess she ponders the desolation of life. I bet she also ponders why she always has to do all the hard things. Have sex with creepy bloodstock agent guy? Check. Kill a Triple Crown winner for no apparent reason? Check. She's on a roll.

  • At one point, Carter asks Cecelia if she knows about Swaps, the great racehorse. Then he tells her a story about how they used to watch Swaps in his paddock, and the movie helpfully cuts to the three kids (Carter, Vinnie and Rosie) in a paddock with Swaps. Really. And Vinnie gets on Swaps and races him bareback against Carter on a motorcycle. Really. No, really. Why did I not screencap this? Blah.
  • The great crime was a ringer operation. The bloodstock agent guy was previously the racing commissioner of California. Maybe. I don't know if that's really who they'd need to blackmail, but that's what the movie seems to imply. So they needed someone to turn a blind eye, because he knew about the operation. So Vinnie got Rosie to sleep with agent guy while Vinnie took pictures of it all behind a two way mirror...which I guess existed randomly in hotels in the 1970s? I have no idea about that. None at all. Afterward Rosie gets all pissed that her boyfriend took pictures of her screwing a dirty old man (despite the fact that she agreed with this, and went through with it, I guess her forethought is really lacking in the sex department), so she dumped him and got together with Carter and became an alcoholic.
  • Also, the last ringer that they run should have been fairly obvious. Not only do all three go up to the windows at the same time, they all bet the same amount of cash ($500). I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize what's going on here.
  • The whole scene with Vinnie and the bloodstock agent guy...think Field of Dreams, only with raging alcoholism, questionable morals, and a box of porn. It's trying really hard, guys, but the movie falls so short it's worth watching just for this scene alone.
  • They wouldn't have killed a Triple Crown winner after he stopped being fertile. That's ridiculous. Thus the whole ending is meaningless and stupid.
  • This movie makes no sense. I can't decide if this was a poor adaptation of the play or if the play was just that bad. No one cares about the porn except Carter and Vinnie, who just burn it later. The purpose of all this is what? Nick Nolte gets a free ride to Kentucky, Sharon Stone kills a horse, and Jeff Bridges decides he wants to go on a two day bender for seemingly no reason? What the hell is going on?
The movie ends during a shot of the Kentucky Derby. Catherine Keener is there. It was the best part of the movie because no one said anything and Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone, and Jeff Bridges weren't there to shower the wonderful event with their porn angst. So yeah, that's the best part. If you don't count the ten seconds of watching Simpatico run around.


Monique said...

wow.... that is one seriously deep film. as deep as the extra period i added to my elipsis.

sundae_mourning said...

i want to see this movie for the sole reason that it is impossible for me to wrap my brain around.