The Last International Playboy

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.

3 Comments »

  1. Derrick Said,

    June 16, 2009 @ 10:31 pm

    I just came from a screening of this movie in NYC, and Chuck has summed this up right on target. After over 15 minutes of adolescent jumbled clips of vapid partying in the beginning of this movie, I began to wonder what this ride would entail. The opening was chock full of very tired cliched scenes…sexist and all T&A, and hardly no shots of this supposed hotshot playboy. The movie felt cobbled from the get go with a weak lack of development between the key characters of Scotch & Ozzy. Little sympathy was created for Frost, I could have cared less when he jumped off of the yacht, that whole scene was ridiculous, fresh off an old soap script. The soundtrack was jarring & simply trying too hard, very forced fed. It’s a shame too, it could have been a richly satisfying slice of his life given the premise.

  2. Sapna Said,

    June 18, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

    I recently saw this movie in New York and actually truly enjoyed it. Perhaps I’m not as well-versed in movies, but I found the soundtrack to be achingly poignant and at least 5 of the songs have made their way onto my “Top Rated” playlist on iTunes. It was a movie that was told as much in music as words, and it’s an excellent one to watch on a Saturday. I thought it was thought-inducing, honestly, and offered some mind-candy about love, fulfillment and success. It was darkly hilarious in many parts, too.

  3. Chuck Said,

    June 19, 2009 @ 11:21 am

    Derrick, you’re right! I think I saw that scene on an episode of Days of our Lives when I was a kid. I do think there were some interesting elements but that the film needed some polish, especially when it came to character development.

    Sapna, I think we’ll have to disagree about this one, for the most part. Like you, I generally liked the music, but the film itself disappointed.

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