This review was written for the festival screening of "Slipstream."
PARK CITY -- Introducing "Slipstream" at its first screening at Sundance, writer, director, star and composer Anthony Hopkins said of his film, "I did it as a creative joke." That's not a bad description of this playful melange of surreal imagery, Hollywood in-jokes, random archival footage and a space and time jumble.
Hopkins, the Academy Award-winning actor who has directed two feature-length pieces before, doesn't have the experience or, in all probability, the desire to create a truly masterful work of surrealism. He just wants to have fun. It's a bloody joke, mate, so don't get your snobbish knickers in a twist, you can almost hear him say.
Taken that way, "Slipstream" is amusing cinematic buffoonery by a man poking fun at movie conventions and the movie business itself. If you look deeper, you'll find only shallow. The audiences for this are those who will turn out to watch Anthony Hopkins pretending to be an experimental filmmaker. Which is not a large audience for a movie that reportedly cost nearly $10 million. What did he spend it on?
Perhaps on people, as the talent behind and in front of the camera is impressive. Press notes brag that cast and crew have accumulated over 70 major awards and over 200 nominations altogether. But you assume these people turned out because Tony flattered them with a personal plea, not for the payday.
At that, they did have hard work, as much of the film takes place in California's Mojave Desert during killer heat on a decaying film set built 25 years ago for a Dennis Hopper movie.
The movie takes place in the mind of a screenwriter (Hopkins) of a murder mystery that has apparently fallen apart during production. The director (Gavin Grazer) and star (Christian Slater) have lost their marbles, so he is rushed to the set for rewrites. Only the characters in his script begin to appear in his life ... or perhaps he is appearing in his own script.
This does produce a few funny bits, such as when Michael Clark Duncan appears before him with a bullet hole in his head to demand to know why his character was killed off earlier than he was scheduled to die according to the shooting script. Or when the film's producer (John Turturro) somehow appears in the hard drive of the writer's computer and through the monitor watches his writer snooze.
As Hopkins flutters back and forth in time and space, it's as if he is searching among the various alternative unrealities to see which he likes best. For the most part, the movie follows a dream-like logic where people, objects and events connect in a haphazard pattern. Scenes repeat themselves. A car changes colors in mid-scene. Veteran actor Kevin McCarthy turns up when someone mentions his most famous film, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Then there are nonsensical intrusions -- random shots of Hitler, Nixon and FDR.
The ending is a letdown only if you've taken any of the film seriously. Indeed most viewers will beat Hopkins to the punch by anticipating the film's rather prosaic "explanation."
Technical credits are outstanding as cinematographer Dante Spinoti, editor Michael R. Miller and costume designer Julie Weiss seem to enjoy following Sir Anthony's lead into this wonderland of nonsense.
Screenwriter-director-music: Anthony Hopkins
Producers: Stella Arroyave, Robert Katz
Director of photography: Dante Spinotti
Production designer: Ismael Cardenas
Costume designer: Julie Weiss
Editor: Michael R. Miller
Felix Bonhoffer: Anthony Hopkins
Harvey Brickman: John Turturro
Ray/Matt Dobbs: Christian Slater
Gina: Stella Arroyave
Barbara: Camryn Manheim
Tracy/ nurse: Lisa Pepper
Gavin/ambulance driver: Gavin Grazer
Big Mickey: Michael Lerner
Betty: Fionnula Flanagan
Running time -- 110 minutes
No MPAA rating