One Night at McCool's
review by Gregory Avery, 27 April 2001

"Liv Tyler IS Jewel!" is how the ad copy for "One Night at McCool's" might have read if the movie were brought out 45 years ago. "She's out for men -- ANY men -- and ANY MAN will do!..."

In the film, Jewel is involved with not one, not two, but three men at the same time: Randy (Matt Dillon), a well-meaning bartender (at the titular establishment) who doesn't have very much but ends up being bilked out of everything he has; Carl (Paul Reiser), Randy's cousin, a lawyer and upper-middle-class family man who takes one look at Jewel and starts having all sorts of dirty little thoughts that have been stopped-up in his head start coming out; and Dehling (John Goodman), a widower and police detective who is investigating a murder that occurred on the same night that Randy first met Jewel, and who, when he sees Jewel for the first time, immediately decides that the young lady is a "victim" and is in need of his rescuing. Jewel, of course, is in reality the classic sort of femme-fatale who sizes men up at first glance and then manipulates them in whatever way she wants to.

The original screenplay, by the late Stan Seidel, has possibilities, such as the way it shows the escalating bing-bang-boom effect that one of the men's interactions with Jewel has on the second or third man the next time she meets up with either of them, and then back again. But the film that has been made of it, directed by Harald Zwart, never seems to be able to find the right shaping, pace, or mood. Everything seems flattened-out, and it ends up reaching for anything to get a laugh: a wizened barfly burping into the camera, sniggering depictions of Randy's second hand shop-style living arrangements, Paul Reiser shinnying down a street wearing full bondage gear, and a gun fight set to the Village People's recording of "Y.M.C.A.. (This being a black comedy, though, the bullets are for real.)

The film is most fatally compromised by the miscasting of Liv Tyler, who is supposed to be playing the kind of red-hot mama who has steam gushing out of every pore and can cause men to fall at her feet just by walking past them. Tyler is a nice, appealing girl, but she is not Rita Hayworth or even the young Lana Turner (or even Elizabeth Shue careening her way, like a car with a split axle, through "Palmetto" a few years back).

John Goodman, arguably one of the very best actors we've got today, brings a wonderful lovelorn quality to his role. And Reba McEntire, currently knocking 'em dead on Broadway in the revival of "Annie Get Your Gun, turns up as a psychiatrist to whom Reiser's character spins out his long tale of woe -- and she's a bit of a wow here, too, in a role which essentially requires her to do very little, but with which she nonetheless does a lot.

Michael Douglas (who also co-produced the film) appears as a sleeze to whom Matt Dillon's character confides his story to (in a bingo parlor -- the setting alone is supposed to provoke hilarity), and his function in the story isn't revealed until almost the very end. Once he swings into action, though, he swings right back out of it -- and you're again reminded of how a better director could've made something more satisfying out of this than what has ended up here.

Directed by:
Harald Zwart

Starring:
Liv Tyler
Matt Dillon
Paul Reiser
John Goodman
Reba McEntire
Michael Douglas 

Written by:
Stan Seidel

Rated:
R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
accompanying
parent or adult
guardian

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