Seducing Charlie Barker: Film Review

Astute show business satire packs a darkly comic punch.

The dark satire follows a talented actor who encounters a chameleon-like social climber and falls into a Manhattan love triangle.

Writer Theresa Rebeck is on a roll lately, with current or upcoming projects on Broadway (Seminar) and television (Smash) and now this film adaptation of her stage play The Scene, for which she has also provided the screenplay. Astutely directed by Amy Glazer (sister of writer/producer Mitch), the retitled show business satire Seducing Charlie Barker doesn’t exactly hide its stage origins. But the pungent writing and sharp performances provide ample compensation in this low-budget indie, which will probably receive its greatest exposure via cable and DVD.

The plot concerns the unraveling of a marriage after the husband begins an affair with a sexy young blonde newly arrived in Manhattan. Charlie (Steven Barker Turner) is a middle-aged, out-of-work actor whose bitterness over his failing career is not helped by the fact that he’s being financially supported by his television producer wife

When he first encounters Clea (Heather Gordon) at a swanky penthouse soiree, he’s appalled by her shallow posturing and insistence that she doesn’t drink even while guzzling glasses of vodka. But he also can’t help noticing her tight posterior, and it isn’t long before the two are involved in a torrid affair, one that robs him of both his marriage and eventually his remaining dignity.

The storyline is hardly original, but it does provide the opportunity for Rebeck to unleash wickedly scathing observations about the sort of self-obsessed show business types who pursue their own interests no matter who it hurts. In his romancing of the rapacious Clea--who ultimately reveals herself to be the sort of woman who uses her body as a weapon--Charlie betrays not only his wife but also his best friend Lewis (David Wilson Barnes), who had clear designs on Clea himself.

The most comically appalling scene--one that resembles Charles Grodin’s breaking the news to his newlywed wife that he’s leaving her during their honeymoon in The Heartbreak Kid in terms of the sheer discomfort it induces—involves Stella’s coming upon Charlie and Clea screwing like rabbits in the couple’s own apartment. Not only is Clea not embarrassed about the situation, she actually upbraids Stella for the interruption.

Less successful are the climactic sequences depicting Charlie’s descent into complete degradation, which have a rushed, perfunctory feel. But otherwise director Glazer keeps a firm hand on the material, and she’s elicited strong performances from the cast. Daphne Zuniga, most often seen on the small screen these days, provides just the right grace notes as the aggrieved wife; Turner convincingly embodies Charlie’s sweaty desperation; and the comely Gordon displays such sexual abandon that there won’t be a male in the audience who won’t identify with her hapless victim.

Opens Dec. 9 (ARC Entertainment)
Production: Kanbar Entertainment, Bashert Productions
Cast: Daphne Zuniga, Steven Barker Turner, Heather Gordon, David Wilson Barnes
Director: Amy Glazer
Screenwriter: Theresa Rebeck
Producer: Lynn Webb
Executive producer: Maurice Kanbar
Director of photography: Jim Orr
Editors: Aidria Astravas, Jordan Ceccarelli, Rick LeCompte
Music: Bruce Fowler
Production designer: Douglas Freeman
Costume designer: Jocelyn Leiser Herndon
Rated R, 93 min.