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Review: 'Passion Play' Is An Excruciating, Unbearable Disaster

by Kevin Jagernauth
May 4, 2011 9:49 AM
7 Comments
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The following is a reprint of our review from TIFF.

Sophomoric, pedestrian and hokey beyond words, Mitch Glazer's excruciating romantic fairytale "Passion Play" is a cliche-riddled, risible and utterly painful experience that boasts hallmark sentiments and TV movie-of-the-week sensibilities mixed in a disastrous attempt to make a love story about unearned redemption.

Mickey Rourke stars as Nick Poole, a down-and-out jazz trumpeter who was once a star, but heroin and hubris eventually dragged him down to rock bottom, playing dives for 50 bucks a pop. Every jazzy, bourbon-filled, nighthawks-at-the-club cliche in the book is employed within the first five minutes and a velvety cornball tone is soon set. But trumpeter interruptus begins early on when Poole is cold clocked and brought out to the desert to be shot by a thug (UFC fighting champion Chuck Liddell) for sleeping with a local gangster's wife. About to be rubbed out, mysterious Indian snipers out of nowhere (no, really) kill the assassin and the weary musician wanders around the desert until he comes across a circus township of trailer trash and freakshow denizens. He wanders around, asking the ringleader (Rhys Ifans) for phone assistance when he comes across a mysterious angel-looking woman with wings named Lily (Megan Fox).


Instantly enchanted (of course), he finds the girl in her trailer later that evening, convinces her to let him in for a drink of gin, charms her and asks to see her wings. Damaged and haunted by her sideshow freak nature, she refuses, but eventually acquiesces when the warm and inviting musician convinces her she's still beautiful. He eventually gets up and on his way into the night, but not before we're given a shot of Lily going into her record collection and pulling out a Nick Poole record -- quelle coincidence! Soon, the circus ringleader is threatening Poole, assuming he wants to steal Lily away, and harasses him with beefy goons. But just before he can sick the snake charmers' vipers on the musician, the cavalry comes in the form of Lily, smashing her father's pickup truck through the room and rescuing Poole. The two whisk away to safety in nearby L.A., but complications arise when the aforementioned gangster (Bill Murray) finds out he still needs to settle his score.

This of course is just the opening of the film, but going deeper into its painful, fromage-heavy center is just a waste of our collective time. Poole looks to act like Lily's protector, but his good intentions fall prey to his selfish sense of survival, desperately using the winged-girl as a bartering chip for the crime boss that wants him dead. Suffice to say the inevitable slow-motion, superimpositon-heavy love scene provoked serious laughter from the audience, and sequence after groan-worthy sequence followed (and there were several walkouts).

Known for writing "Scrooged," Glazer does have friends in high places as evinced by the quality of actors who deign to appear in the film, many of whom we assume never bothered reading the script -- in the case of Bill Murray, we don't think it's humanly possible that he could have. Murray does his best to get through the unbearable, sub par material, but even he doesn't go unscathed and can't escape looking foolish. Fox and Rourke on the other hand are embarrassed throughout and lord knows what they or their agents were thinking. Sporting one contrivance after another and daring to unveil convenient plot point after plot point, "Passion Play" is easily one of the TIFFls biggest debacles and reminds us of a similar laughed-out-the-door disaster, "Boxing Helena." While, perhaps not as brutally bad, the similar, wtf tone and inability to take any moment of the film -- romantic or dramatic -- remotely seriously does ring familiar bells.

Oh, and we nearly forgot the spectacularly awful ending that we won't spoil, but we probably should considering you're never going to see this film, at least not in theaters. If Glazer comes to his senses he'll burn the negative and chalk it all up to a massive, massive lack of good judgment and basic common sense. [F]

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7 Comments

  • Rose | May 6, 2011 7:43 AMReply

    I actually liked Boxing Helena. That movie actually improved with time. If the "WTF" comparison is true, I have a passing interest in seeing this film....but the thing holding me back is Megan Fox. I just can't.

  • Bobsyeruncle | May 5, 2011 6:45 AMReply

    Your 'review' is from fall 2010 - 9 months ago - I saw this film yesterday at a press screening in LA (there was one in NY too) perhaps the movie has had another pass or two because your angry and vitriolic review (jeez - did Glazer sleep with your wife?) does not match the film I saw or maybe I just loved what you hated? I totally went with this romantic movie. I loved the acting and the story.
    A few corrections to your snarky review - it's Nate Poole not Nick. He gets $100 to play at a museum party (did you just make up the $50?) and I read the script a couple of years ago. (I produce films and make a great living at it - no thanks to cynical bloggers like you.) It was one of the most original and beautiful pieces of writing that crossed my path. Sadly, I make cheesy action films for big $ - but I love films like Passion Play.

  • Lorraine Goldstein | May 5, 2011 6:06 AMReply

    It is unfortunate that Last Night, Passion Play and Daydream Nation are only being released in select cities this week and that we won’t find out how they would have done commercially if released nationwide. They all have interesting casts.

    It would have been interesting to see how smaller films for the leads would do commercially.

  • marrrk | May 5, 2011 4:48 AMReply

    come on, Playlist. when you give a negative review it means you have a hidden agenda. it can't possibly mean that you simply thought the film sucked assholes. and i know what i'm talking about, I such cheesy assholes for a living and make mucho dinero doing it - no thanks to cynical bloggers like you.

  • Lucy | May 5, 2011 3:55 AMReply

    That first picture of Megan is horrible but not as horrible as the film itself I bet

  • BT | May 5, 2011 3:04 AMReply

    You've got a typo in your headline there (excrutiating instead of excruciating). It doesn't make it any easier that I have to watch this tomorrow but I thought you'd want to know.

  • Edward Davis | May 5, 2011 1:43 AMReply

    @Bobsyeruncle
    0% score on Rotten Tomatoes. you might be the only person on earth who didn't laugh the film out the door.

    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/passion_play/

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