“Prozac Nation” (2001)
Length of Delay: 4 1/2 years, between its TIFF premiere in 2001 at which Miramax bought it, till its eventual quiet U.S. debut in 2005 on Starz! channel and DVD.
What's it About: Based on author Elizabeth Wurtzel’s literary phenomenon memoir of the same name, the film follows Lizzie (Christina Ricci), a scholarship student to Harvard who, despite success and recognition, finds herself turning more to the abuse of drugs and sex to combat her growing depression. After a suicide attempt, and a long period of psychiatric treatment and medication that her mother can ill afford, Lizzie is stabilized, but at some cost to her sense of self.
Why Was It Delayed: Actually there are several reasons. The film was snapped up by the Weinsteins, despite its cool-to-middling reception at TIFF, and it’s understandable that they might have hoped they’d have something akin to the successful 1998 picture “Girl, Interrupted” on their hands, with the added boon that this was based on a hugely buzzy book, and featured a well-received Christina Ricci performance (and her first ever topless scene). However it simply seems a case of buyer beware as Miramax quickly lost faith in the project (directed by original “Insomnia” helmer Erik Skjoldbjærg, btw), apparently disheartened by subsequent test screening responses, despite various attempts at re-editing. Add to this a controversy that arose after Wurtzel made some thoughtless comments about her lack of emotional reaction to the events of 9/11 (she would later recant and claim that she was speaking while in fact still under the influence of the profound shock she’d received), and the decision was made to delay the immediate release for pragmatic reasons too. However despite the film getting a release in the director’s native Norway and some other territories in the interim, Miramax, despite pressure from self-identifying “Wurzelites,” never regained their faith enough to give it a decent U.S. release and it premiered on TV in 2005.
Was It Worth The Wait: Not really. Loath though we might be to suggest that Miramax had a point, the film is a slog, with Ricci giving it her all (though unforgettably being dubbed “Christina Screechy” by one critic) but in a thankless, unsympathetic, self-involved role. While the film’s defenders suggest that one reason for Miramax’s gun-shy attitude was that it was simply too accurate a portrait of the difficult topic of depression, in fact the the film doesn’t actually serve that agenda at all well, trivializing the portrayal of the disease as a series of whiny, ego episodes that, watched with all the empathy in the world don’t come close to offering any insights for those seeking a better understanding of this much-misunderstood affliction. It’s a relentless downbeat, dramatically inert movie that even Ricci’s unwavering commitment can’t save, and while it doesn’t deserve to go to prison forever (certainly doesn’t deserve the martyr status it might then acquire) yeah, a five-years-later Starz debut seems about right. [C-]
"Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer" (1986)
Length of Delay? The picture finished shooting in 1986, but only received a theatrical release in 1989.
What's it About? A loose retelling of the story of murderer Henry Lee Lucas.
Why Was It Delayed: “Henry” debuted at the Chicago International Film Festival, but it gained no favor from the MPAA, who refused to suggest a proper way to cut the film to achieve an R-rating. It took years, and the outspoken support of Roger Ebert, before the picture saw release, though it was unrated.
Was It Worth The Wait: “Henry” is one of the most sickening films ever made, and none of that has to do with graphic violence. There’s plenty of bloodshed in the film, though most of the attacks and the film’s examples of brutality are either bluntly non-gory, or short, upsetting bursts. Instead, the picture emphasizes the mundane nature of killing, showcasing how easy it can be to shift from normal to insane in a relatively brief time. Most of this comes from Michael Rooker, a hammy character actor who nonetheless brings a terrifyingly real edge to his role as this murderous loner. Rooker’s been a dramatic lightweight in several pictures, but in “Henry” he gives one of the genre’s great performances as a man who manages to hide his unhinged nature behind a mask of everyday banality, never once implying that this normal guy couldn’t possibly be hiding a sociopath underneath. It’s an upsetting film like no other, accurately illustrating the line between Average Joe and Bloodthirsty Killer in a way no other film has since then. [A-]
“The Other Side of the Wind” (1972)
Length of Delay: 41 years and counting
What's it About: An eternally unfinished epic, uber-meta magnum opus from Orson Welles, “The Other Side of the Wind” (which is also the name of the film-within-the-film, large portions of which were shot), is the story of Hannaford, a larger-than-life, Hemingway-esque film director (Welles considered casting himself but settled on his friend, the larger-than-life, Hemingway-esque John Huston instead) on the last day of his life, which happens to be his 70th birthday. At the party, skeletons come roaring out of closets as friends, enemies and frenemies are shown scenes from the film he is shooting, and Hannaford gets progressively drunker and by turns abusive, maudlin, violent and flirtatious, with female and male guests alike. As the revelations and confrontations of the night finally die back, Hannaford drives his car into a drive-in screen showing his film, and dies whether accidentally or by suicide remains unclear.
Why Was It Delayed: Well, the actual story of the delay would probably take about four decades to tell, so we’ll topline it here: Welles, never one wanting in ambition, actually shot footage for ‘Wind’ over the course of seven years, largely self-financed (down to paying some cast and crew members in “Citizen Kane” Oscar statuettes or boxes of cigars), weathering crippling tax audits, embezzlement scandals and self-imposed delays alike. He did not even settle on John Huston for the lead role until 1973, meaning that some conversations at the party had one half filmed in 1970, and the responses shot three or four years later. It was furthermore prey to Welles’ astonishing perfectionism and desire to experiment with the avant-garde while also sending up its excesses—the film within the film was at one point estimated to run to 50% of the total film’s running time, with it being described by Welles as an “old man's attempt to do a kind of counterculture film, in a surrealist, dreamlike style... Not the kind of film I'd want to make; I've invented a style for [Hannaford].” And even outside of Hannaford’s film, Welles was experimenting—‘Wind’ employs black and white footage alongside color, photomontage alongside motion pictures, and was largely improvised by a cast stacked with filmmakers, sometimes playing themselves, but sometimes acting—Peter Bogdanovich, Dennis Hopper, Calude Chabrol, Henry Jaglom and Paul Mazursky all turn up playing more or less fictionalized versions of themselves. Mostly, though, the film is a victim of three things: Welles’ age and infirmity at the time, his inability to find a steady finance source so he could edit it full-time and the wrangling and reverence for him now that he’s gone, that had some of the players even asserting it would be a "betrayal" to have anyone try to finish and release the film.
Was It Worth The Wait: At the moment it still languishes in “what if” limbo, as following Welles’ death, the full extent of the catastrophic tangle of ownership and copyright issues over the film gradually made itself known with successive attempts to complete it. As it is, 40-50 minutes were completed by Welles, and there remains ten hours of footage from which to cull the remaining portions. The most promising of the ongoing attempts to complete it is probably that spearheaded by Welles scholar, friend and star of the movie Peter Bogdanovich, who has reported that the negative is in good condition and that he believes at some point he will get to bring it to as finished a standard as possible. However money is again the problem, with backers Showtime not committing so far to a specific budget for completion, and with the specter of Welles’ “Don Quixote” looming large—that film was widely panned after being rather cheaply cobbled together posthumously. Still, no cinephile worth their salt can fail to be intrigued by this project, for its meta, inside-baseball look at a fascinating period of movie history if nothing else. That's if our tiny heads could actually handle it—from what we hear this may be as close as we ever get to a real-life 70s movie-industry version of Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York." It's been forty-odd years, but is the world ready for that? [?]
“Pride and Glory” (2008)
Length of Delay: 2 years, until its release in October 2008, actually some months earlier than was originally threatened.
What's it About: The Gavin O’Connor-directed, Joe Carnahan-co-scripted film follows the story of a family of NYPD cops—the patriarch (Jon Voight), the two sons (Ed Norton and Noah Emmerich) and the son in law (Colin Farrell), as The Good One (Norton) discovers that his brothers may be involved in high-level corruption that he ultimately has to choose to conceal in the name of family or reveal in the name of truth.
Why Was It Delayed: At one point a vehicle for Hugh Jackman and Mark Wahlberg, “Pride & Glory,” a long-standing, apparently very personal passion project for O'Connor, originally got a green light all the way back in 2002, but production stalled until 2005, with co-writer Carnahan citing 9/11 as a good reason to postpone a film that presented a critical portrayal of the New York police. New Line got the rights back, however and the film was recast and shot in early 2006, but instead of the prompt release that the director, writer and stars felt it warranted, New Line then sat on the property for some time, eventually even adding insult to injury by shifting its already delayed release date of March 2008 back to “sometime in 2009.” In fact they ended up releasing it in October of 2008 but not before a great deal of public bitterness had been aired, by O’Connor, Carnahan, Norton and Farrell about the studio’s treatment of the film.
Was It Worth The Wait: Well, here’s the irony. Where the vocal complaints from the cast and filmmakers might have led you to believe that the film was a neglected masterpiece being unjustly left to languish by a chickenshit studio that didn’t understand its value, the film that finally made it into cinemas was a little more than a desperately unoriginal retread of every single dirty-cop cliché in the well-worn book. In fact the only thing that really elevates the film out of sheer forgettability is the caliber of the cast, but even there, they all seem so sure that the tired lines they’re delivering are pearls of profane tough-nut wisdom, and the story beats they’re negotiating are hugely inventive and surprising, that the effect is a huge, sometimes nearly comic, disconnect between what they think the audience is thinking, and what the audience actually is thinking. Seriously, one more po-faced “Because I’m a cop!” or “Because I’m your brother!” and we may have actually LOL’d. It’s not that it’s a particularly bad film at all, it’s just completely by-the-numbers and certainly not worth getting so aereated about. [C+]
“Repo Men” (2010)
Length of Delay: 2 years, from the film’s completion in 2008 to its release in 2010
What's It About: Not to be in any way even partially, tangentially confused with Alex Cox’s punk cult classic “Repo Man,” “Repo Men” (retitled from “Repossession Mambo”) is set in a dystopian future where a thriving business exists in artificial replacement human organs, and in being the guys sent to “repossess” those organs when the exorbitant payments can’t be met. Jude Law and Forest Whitaker play two such characters, Remy and Jake, regarded as the best in the business, which puts strain on Remy’s relationship with his wife to the point that he transfers out of the department. However when Remy himself finds he needs to pay for a replacement organ, he’s forced back into the repo game, where he meets and falls for a new girl (Alice Braga) with whom he eventually plots to take down the evil corporation that employs him once and for all, having had his eyes opened to the immorality of what they’ve been doing all these years. At least that’s what we think is the plot.
Why Was It Delayed: Well here’s where the story gets nearly as confusing as the movie. There’s another film, you see, released in 2008 called “Repo! The Genetic Opera,” which was a low-budget ‘Rocky Horror’-esque rock opera starring Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Head and Paris Hilton(!). And it dealt with a story, set in the future in which a ruthless corporation “repossesses” organ implants from customers unable to continue to pay for them. So, yeah. With the script for that film, and the source material, predating “Repo Men” by several years, and with a small but vocal cult springing up around 'Repo!' the latter film was the target of quite some vitriol, despite both sets of filmmakers officially denying any connection or rip-offery. In fact, while it might seem that “Repo Men” was delayed to leave some clear air between it and 'Repo!,' in fact the intervening years were actually taken up with constant postproduction tinkering and re-edits, as clearly producers felt they had something sellable in the high-concept sci-fi premise, gory violence, and potential draw of two biggish stars, but struggled to find just what. It may seem too coincidental, but as anyone who’s seen it can tell you, it’s quite clear that, aside from any potential copycat issues, no one knew what the hell to do with the film which seems to show all the enthusiasm of the neophyte from debut director Miguel Sapochnik, but none of the competence or storytelling confidence that a few more years in the saddle might have lent him (he’s been banished to TV ever since).
Was It Worth The Wait: Really the surprise is that while they clearly knew they were in trouble with the film to the point that they tried reshaping it considerably at post-production stage, somehow it was this cut that producers let loose on the world. A mess of flashbacks, plot contrivances, and characterization that longs in its wildest dreams to be called cardboard, the film actually feels a bit like watching a rough cut. And it’s actually kind of a shame, because there are moments and elements that are good, quite aside from a pleasantly screwy, Cronenberg-minus-the-cerebrality premise: Law, and Liev Schreiber, in one of his oleaginous company-man baddie roles, kind of manage the film’s abrupt tonal shifts from gentle satire to gory violence to rebel-with-a-cause narrative (though Whitaker feels miscast from the off). Mostly, though, the choppiness makes it difficult to navigate and the film feels more like the warmed-over remainder of a bunch of other, better movies. We’ll leave you to judge whether “Repo! The Genetic Opera" is one of those. [C]