Steve Clark’s debut indie feature The Last International Playboy (IMDB) opens during a vaguely euphoric party scene in which a group of improbably beautiful actress-model types frolic topless on the bed of Jack Frost (played by Roswell’s Jason Behr), a one-time novelist who has spent the last seven years doing little other than loafing about, drinking booze with his boorish best pal, “Scotch,” and pining over a grade-school romantic interest, Carolina, who has since rejected him. The scene, which visually echoes a similar scene in Wedding Crashers, successfully captures that tension between boozed-out bliss and the desperate loneliness that Jack is supposed to feel and that often comes with excessive partying. This desperation is most explicitly suggested in the opening shot, which depicts Jack’s friend, Ozzy (Krysten Ritter) sprawled out on the floor, doing heroin, oblivious to the world around her. But it also set up what were, for me, some of the problems the film had: namely the essentially impassive dullness that made it difficult for me to identify with Jack or to see why (presumably beyond the personal wealth that would allow him to party like Tad Allagash) anyone would really want to hang out with such a mopey guy.
Jack is gradually rescued from his depression-induced stupor in part by the assistance of Sophie (India Ennega), a sweetly precocious eleven-year-old girl who lives in his building and whose parents conveniently work all the time. Sophie quietly insinuates herself into Jack’s life, befriending him and consoling him over his problems with women while also getting him to take her trick-or-treating. Like Natalie Portman in Beautiful Girls and The Professional, Sophie is wise beyond her years, able to see Jack’s decency behind the flat surface (and, like Portman, she has terrific acting chops), but the story of the thirtysomething guy with Peter Pan syndrome has been done far more persuasively and with more charm, especially in the adaptations of two of Nick Hornby’s novels, as Variety’s review points out. More than anything, the film failed to render the worlds Jack inhabits in Manhattan with enough specificity to make them convincing: the elegant decadence of the club scenes, the cool professionalism of the publishing industry, much less Jack’s status as a novelist (a point echoed by Moving Pictures’ Elliott V. Kotek). Had these elements been more sharply drawn, Jack’s existential crisis and his friendships with Scotch and Ozzy might have been more convincing.
I’m aware that the film will probably play better for others than it did for me, and I appreciate that Playboy didn’t take the easy way out in transforming Jack into a saint. Playboy’s soundtrack features a number of tracks from A-list indie rockers but sometimes overwhelmed the film rather than supplementing it and adding to the feeling that the film was a series of disconnected set pieces. There are some nice moments in the film, especially those involving Sophie, but the film itself doesn’t quite work.