Thursday, May 4, 2006

DOIN' THE ADIEU

Posted on Thu, May 4, 2006 at 4:00 AM

***1/2
One Last Thing...
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Rated: R
Cast: Cynthia Nixon, Michael Angarano, Gina Gershon, Wyclef Jean, Sunny Mabrey
Director: Alex Steyermark
Screenwriter: Barry Stringfellow
WorkNameSort: One Last Thing...
Our Rating: 3.50

Audiences will fail to embrace One Last Thing â?¦, I'd wager ' mainly because its basic premise falsely indicates that it's a completely different type of film for a completely different crowd. The pitch: A terminally ill teenager (Michael Angarano) pursues his fervent dream to have sex with a famous supermodel (Sunny Mabrey). Surely this must be a gratification fantasy flickering in the seediest corners of the late Don Simpson's imagination, or a horny romcom for all-American perverts who found Milk Money too coy.

It's neither, exactly, spinning a frank yarn in a largely serious fashion and hitting on some salient truths about contemporary attitudes ' though whether it's bemoaning those truths or buying into them is often hard to discern.

Angarano's Dylan Jameison has caught the attention of a do-gooding organization called the United Wish Givers, who want to fulfill the dying lad's stated dream of going on a fishing trip with his favorite football hero (Johnny Messner). But on the advice of his giggly buddies (Matt Bush, Gideon Gluck), Dylan changes his tune at a televised press conference, admitting on camera that what he really wants is to spend an entire weekend alone with sex symbol Nikki Sinclair (Mabrey).

That's a pretty brazen suggestion, even for a cancer-ridden kid whose every moral infraction is going to be handled gingerly. Screenwriter Barry Stringfellow isn't afraid to have his lead character border on the unsympathetic ' in their private conversations, Dylan and his pals abandon the euphemism 'spend a weekend withâ?� and replace it with its real-world equivalent, 'nail.â?� Yet the public reaction to Dylan's announcement is an outpouring of support that speaks volumes about our society's persistent confusion of physical intimacy with goal orientation.

Initially, however, the attention Dylan gets from Nikki is limited to an extremely truncated visit in his Pennsylvania home, and that only transpires because her manager (Gina Gershon) sees it as an essential step in rebuilding the public image Nikki has been trashing via bratty conduct and self-abuse. Undeterred, Dylan gathers up his two friends (and a wad of cash he's been provided by the aforementioned footballer, who finds his agenda charming) and tries to track Nikki down in her home city of New York. As he pursues his prey into modeling agency offices and swank nightclubs, he's haunted by apparitions of his deceased dad, who was likewise felled early by disease. (An uncredited Ethan Hawke gives one of the few tightly controlled performances of his career.)

The balance between tear-stained mortality and commodified coitus is strange and fragile (it's My Life meets Indecent Proposal), and the film is always at risk of tumbling into a vat of treacle. While Dylan and company slice up the Big Apple, back home, the football hero visits Dylan's mom for a series of explanatory heart-to-hearts that strand otherwise fine actress Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) in exposition. A subplot in which we learn that Nikki, too, is nursing a private hurt borders on melodrama, but it's redeemed by some dream sequences that actually work.

Still, Stringfellow and director Alex Steyermark wander into some moral gray zones that can't be cleared up by honesty alone. Is their message the Y tu mamá también lesson that wanting sex is OK provided you're dying? Worse, is it the far more pervasive misconception that access to women's bodies is a reward men are owed for their good behavior and/or suffering? No single movie is going to rectify those fallacies; I just wish this one were a bit clearer about knowing that they're the enemy.

(Opens Friday, May 5, at Touchstar Cinemas Altamonte 8; 407-888-2228)

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