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Rated 2.98 stars
by 1150 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
GOSSIP Can Bore You to Death
by Betty Jo Tucker

Everyone, at one time or another, has helped spread a rumor or two about an innocent person. In Gossip, this behavior backfires on the initiators of a malicious story, changing the lives of five college students forever. Reputations are destroyed, friendships broken, and a murder/suicide investigation gets underway. How could a movie with such a provocative theme go wrong?

Certainly not because of the young actors featured in the film. James Marsden (Disturbing Behavior) exudes charisma as Derrick, a wealthy manipulative student who involves his two roommates in a treacherous journalism assignment by assuring them its purpose is to identify the link between news and gossip. British actress Lena Headey (Mrs. Dalloway) projects mature confidence in the role of Jones, a photography major struggling with her romantic feelings for Derrick. Norman Reedus (8MM), who is an artist in real life, lends authenticity to the character of Travis, the shy artist he portrays. (This role was written especially for him.) Joshua Jackson (The Skulls) and Kate Hudson (200 Cigarettes) react convincingly as the angry victims of Derrick’s experiment.

An emphasis on style over substance is the main problem here. Filmmakers seem more interested in creating a unique setting than in effective storytelling. Director Davis Guggenheim (NYPD Blue) admits, "This is intentionally a very idealized, highly stylized vision of college life. In creating this film, we worked hard to come up with a campus life that is hyper-real."

Cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak (The Devil’s Advocate) helped achieve this effect by lighting the movie with lush, deep tones, and costume designer Louise Mingenbach (The Usual Suspects) contributed to the stylish mood by providing the cast with a variety of upscale fashions.

As a result, the students appear to inhabit a strange world of supercool apartments, exotic clubs, glamorous parties, and surreal classroms. However, a good thriller needs more than delicious eye-candy. An excessive amount of it always keeps me from suspending disbelief and becoming emotionally involved in the movie. The great Alfred Hitchcock understood this concept --- which is why such classics as Vertigo, North by Northwest, and To Catch a Thief include a delicate balance of style and substance.

Because of its predictability and lack of suspense, Gossip failed to hold my interest. With a more fleshed-out script, it could have been an intriguing thriller, not just a visually appealing dark fantasy.

(Released by Warner Bros. and rated "R" for sexual content including language and brief violence.)

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