James Toback and Alec Baldwin‘s Seduced & Abandoned, which screened this morning at the Salle Bunuel, is a doc that basically says that it’s harder than hell to raise money to make a mid-range or a somewhat lower-budgeted character-driven film unless your marquee elements (stars, action scenes, FX) are directly marketable to a lowest-common-denominator audience in international communities. Which we know going in. It also says it didn’t used to be like this in the ’60s and ’70s and even part of the ’80s, but everything has changed these days for the worse. Which we also know going in.
And yet Toback and Baldwin’s encounters with various international money guys and several major directors (Scorsese, Polanski, Coppola, Bertolucci) and movie stars (Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Neve Campbell) are a lot of fun. There are many tasty and hilarious moments. This is a fun, wise, tangy, knowing, entertaining and even heartwarming film. (Really.). But it’s also bothersome because the spine of it is about Toback-Baldwin trying to raise money for a film that anyone would say right off the bat is not very commercial and in fact sounds too threadbare as a concept.
Toback-Baldwin’s idea is to make a Last Tango in Paris-like drama set in Iraq that would costar Baldwin and Campbell as, respectively, a conservative businessman and a left-wing journalist who meet and have some kind of mad affair in Tikrit. It’s basically “the world is coming to an end…let’s fuck,” as Baldwin explains. Due respect but they might gave been able to raise money on this concept 15 years ago, when Baldwin and Campbell were much hotter commercial commodities than they are today, and also when they were hotter looking.
Baldwin is in his mid 50s and Campbell is 39, and while they’re obviously attractive and well-tended people nobody particularly wants to see them buck naked and rutting, no offense. Or I don’t, at least. I’m saying this with the utmost respect. I wouldn’t have wanted to see Gary Cooper‘s naked ass when he was in his mid 50s either.
Otherwise, Seduced & Abandoned is a savory stew of observations, recollections, laments, wise insights and wiseacre-isms. I enjoyed every component, shot, line, interview and clip. (Including an engaging portion that features Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy and Variety critic Scott Foundas.) It’s fine. I just wish that Toback-Baldwin had tried to raise money for a project that sounded promisingly commercial, or even half-commercial.