Ghost Writer (2007)

DVD Cover (The Weinstein Company)
Genres: Black Comedy, Comedy Drama, Psychological Thriller
Jonathan Vandermark is a music teacher with a weakness for young men with great aspirations and without a pot to piss in. When Sebastian enters his life and takes advantage of John's charity, his life and afterlife will be changed forever. --IMDb
Alan Cumming Alan Cumming
Alan Cumming Alan Cumming
Alison Guh Alison Guh
David Boreanaz David Boreanaz
Anne Heche Anne Heche
Whitney Allen Whitney Allen

4.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: May 02, 2007
At this year's Birmingham SHOUT Festival, the first ever Beacon Award was presented to the great Alan Cumming. I had the privilege of designing and editing the montage of his work that screened before he accepted the award. He was receiving this award for his work in gay media, and his film was also screening, "Suffering Man's Charity", which Alan directed and stars in. It was a fitting film to headline the festival, and it was definitely an honor to work on something to honor such a staple amongst homosexuals everywhere. In everything from his work on Broadway to the varied range of roles he has played throughout his career, Alan Cumming was a true gem. And, "Suffering Man's Charity" might be his most unusual film to date - and that is saying quite a bit.

As John Vandermark, Alan Cumming is all over the place. The film is kind of like a one man show and it explores very dark territories and very dark subject matters. The film starts out with John complaining to his friend Eric (Henry Thomas) how he is sick and tired of Sebastian (David Boreanaz), a hustler claiming to be a writer whom John has shacked up and paid for, looking for something mysterious in return. John and Sebastian eventually face off and that's when the film gets a little weird. I won't go much further because I don't want to give anything away. I will say that a large chunk of the film deals with the relationship between John and Sebastian and how they relate to one another. Karen Black pops up as an older woman with whom Sebastian is involved, Anne Heche as a powerful publisher and the always great Jane Lynch as a photographer. The film has an assortment of cameos, but Cumming and Boreanaz are, by far, the two stars of the picture.

There was just something a little off about this film. I found it disturbing in a multitude of levels, but not in the same way I find David Lynch disturbing. "Suffering Man's Charity" is a dark and rather dirty film that raises up into the light, not even for a moment. It's a bitter and scornful film and it has very little that is positive. Cumming's direction sets a very bizarre tone and mood for the picture, and that works to its favor, but it goes from very over-the-top to very subtle to very fantastical to very realistic. I was slightly confused as to what Cumming was trying to get out of the picture, as a whole. What was he trying to achieve? He spoke before the film and introduced it as kind of a 'dramatic splatter picture' and that really is what it felt like. I thought they should have stuck to one genre because the splatter made the drama seem silly and the drama made the splatter seem silly, and blending genres like that only works in rare occasions. This was not one.

The performances, however, were there. Though occasionally too theatrical, Alan Cumming probably had to be with the role of John Vandermark. He delivers a lot of his lines screaming and that was a bit distracting, but I suppose that was also a requirement of the role. David Boreanaz was a joy to look at, and he's as attractive as ever, but part of me thinks the role could have benefited from someone with a wider range as an actor. Boreanaz does a fine job, but when he comes back after the 'event' happens, he is far too cartoonish and seems like something out of "Beetlejuice". The cameos were also nice, especially Jane Lynch as the photographer and Karen Black as the older woman who just wants some sex, damn it. And don't we all?

In summation, "Suffering Man's Charity" deserves to be seen just so one of you might be able to figure it out and tell me what in the hell it's supposed to mean. Alan Cumming introduced it and explained it and I still don't really know what it means. It's either one of the most brilliant films I have seen and just don't understand, or I do understand it perfectly and it's one of the most obtuse and self-absorbed films I have ever seen. I am stuck in the middle for now, and that is a weird place to be. "Suffering Man's Charity" is dark, grueling, unattractive and very seedy. It doesn't present a positive image of homosexuals, but that's not a bad thing - it's nice to see a film at a gay film festival that doesn't present every homosexual as roses and sunshine. John Vandermark is not a character you're supposed to like, and we don't. Neither of the lead characters are characters we are supposed to like, but we have a better time enjoying Boreanaz because they do a great job of making him look absolutely gorgeous throughout. That was enough for me.

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