Directed by Davis Guggenheim
Review by Matt Heffernan
I think I'm still a pretty young person, but there are enough films being made about even younger people to make me feel like I'm approaching middle age. The actors that I grew up watching are getting even older, and now there is a whole galaxy of stars from various shows on fledgling TV networks. They're all very young, I don't know them at all, and yet they are taking over Hollywood. Here is a new studio film containing a principal cast of six young actors, none of which I knew existed before last year.
Near his university's Manhattan campus, Derrick (James Marsden) has a large apartment that he shares with his friends Kathy (Lena Headey) and Travis (Norman Reedus). They all attend a journalism class taught by Professor Goodwin (Eric Bogosian), and they are assigned a project. They choose to start a rumor and see how far it spreads and how distorted it becomes.
At a party, Derrick sees students Beau (Joshua Jackson) and Naomi (Kate Hudson) go into a bedroom together, and watches them from the bathroom. He goes back to Kathy and Travis and says they should make Beau and Naomi having sex their rumor, which he says did not actually happen. With the help of campus gossip Sheila (Marisa Coughlan), the rumor spreads quickly, and it convinces Naomi that she was raped, because she passed out and doesn't remember what happened. She presses charges against Beau, at which point Derrick, Kathy, and Travis realize that their project is out of hand, but they find that gossip is much stronger than the truth.
This situation does bring about the expected moments of suspense, but where does Gossip go wrong? Well, in a few too many places. First of all, the film takes place at the same location as Down to You: Rich and Beautiful University of New York. It's like no college I have ever seen (certainly nothing like my alma mater, but then again, I wouldn't meet either of that school's admission criteria). Even Travis, who is supposedly a struggling artist who can't even pay his rent, can afford several computers and a plethora of expensive equipment for his projects. So, there's a little credibility problem.
Unfortunately, that problem extends to the plot. I can certainly accept style over substance when it comes to suspense films, and there is a great abundance of style in Gossip. Imagine Hitchcock's Rope for the MTV crowd, and you'll have a good picture. What director Davis Guggenheim (making his feature debut after years in television) fails to realize is that you can't have all style and no substance, and still have a satisfying film. The ending is quite preposterous, but it is acceptable since the plot never had any integrity.
It looks like these youngsters have failed to make much of an impression on me. They certainly couldn't manage to sell many tickets, having a horrendous opening last weekend. At least I got to see Bogosian and his fellow grown-ups Sharon Lawrence and Edward James Olmos provide some decent support. I've known and liked them for years, and they did manage to keep me from feeling too old.
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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan