|The Big Empty
2003 - R - 94 Mins.
|Director: Steve Anderson
|Producer: Steve Bickel, Rich Cowan
|Written By: Steve Anderson
|Starring: Jon Favreau, Joey Lauren Adams, Sean Bean, Kelsey Grammer, Daryl Hannah, Rachel Leigh Cook, Adam Beach
|Review by: Joe Rickey
This Jon Favreau led combination of dark comedy and a bizarre science fiction mystery plays like a low rent rip off of David Lynch’s film noir ‘Mulholland Dr.’ without anything resembling the great performances by Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring in the aforementioned Lynch film. Even Favreau himself looks bored most of the time in this film that tells of a wannabe actor who is offered 25,000 dollars to deliver a blue suitcase to a man called “The Cowboy” in the desert far, far away. His journey leads him down a road that becomes stranger by the minute as he comes across an ever growing cast of characters.
Jon Favreau has established himself as a talent in Hollywood. From writing, directing, and starring in ‘Swingers’ and ‘Made’ with friend Vince Vaughn to directing and appearing in the monster hit ‘Elf’ with Will Ferrell, he has made a name for himself by creating quirky comedies that nonetheless appeal to a wide audience. He unfortunately didn’t have a hand in writing or directing ‘The Big Empty’ with Steve Anderson handling those duties with this film.
The resulting film is really nothing more than a big mess of a production, with characters entering and exiting with no rhyme or reason, some characters also seem to be without a purpose in the narrative. All the various characters do is bring too many half-hearted subplots to the film, making the film lose focus with its central narrative regarding the identity of the mysterious Cowboy character, something ripped straight from ‘Mulholland Dr.’ It gets to the point where the film frustrates the viewer much more than it could ever claim to entertain, as writer-director Anderson even goes as far as to input needless symbolism into the film, a tactic that brings even more murkiness to the storyline. Matters aren’t aided by a pace that can only be described as jerky and definitely not the smoothest example of cohesive storytelling because whereas one was intrigued by what David Lynch presented in ‘Mulholland Dr.’ one is instead alternately dumbfounded and frustrated by what is presented by Steve Anderson in ‘The Big Empty,’ which refers to the desert, by the way. All of this is really too bad, because the film initially starts outs as an intriguing idea that could have evolved into a masterful piece of filmmaking in the hands of a skilled director, because while Anderson crafted an interesting idea, his handling of said idea is so poor that the film devolves into a whole bunch of silliness.
The film was somehow able to attract a talented cast that along with Favreau includes Kelsey Grammer, Daryl Hannah, Rachel Leigh Cook, Joey Lauren Adams, and Adam Beach. They each give performances that lead me to believe that they were as bored by the material as Favreau, exerting as little effort as is possible while collecting a paycheck. Maybe they aren’t entirely to blame, since their characters come and go on the whim of Steve Anderson’s unfocused screenplay.
‘The Big Empty’ tries to be something profound and altogether brilliant, but, in the end, is just what its name implies: empty.