Critics' Pick

Barrymore (NR)

Drama 83 November 15, 2012
By Ernest Hardy
Anyone even slightly versed in Hollywood lore and history knows that the scandals that make TMZ twitter are child's play compared to those of Hollywood's early yesteryears, and that the template for bad boy behavior was carved by the late John Barrymore. In writer-director Erik Canuel's Barrymore, based on William Luce's play, Christopher Plummer re-creates his Tony-winning performance as the OG charming louse in his booze-addled final days. Blessed with a script that is witty, insightful to the workings of the narcissistic Hollywood psyche, and often wonderfully bitchy, the film is also a wistful look at faded dreams and opportunities lost due to both the vagaries of the business and self-sabotage. The balance is impressively struck between bawdy humor and elegiac riffs, with Plummer doing surgically precise pirouettes that spin his Barrymore from breezy quips to dark emotional free fall and then back again. The only other on-screen character is an exasperated "Frank, the Prompter" (played by John Plumpis in fine gay-straight-man form,) and the film itself is barely opened up from its stage origins, with most of the action taking place in an empty theater as Barrymore disastrously/hilariously attempts a performance of Richard III ("Richard the turd," he dubs the character) for potential investors in a comeback theater vehicle. It takes a minute for the film to move beyond a kind of gilded stasis, but once it does, it-- and Plummer-- are riveting.
Erik Canuel Christopher Plummer, John Plumpis Erik Canuel, William Luce Christopher Plummer, Kevin Albrecht, Steve Kalafer, Peter LeDonne, Gene Saks Independent Pictures