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New Suit (2003) Print E-mail
Friday, 02 May 2003
“New Suit” is, of all things, a retelling of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” with a frustrated aspiring screenwriter/production company intern instead of two larcenous tailors and a script taking the place of the fabled garment. The swap works surprisingly well – to a point, “New Suit” works beautifully as both swapped-out fairytale and as wish fulfillment for anyone who has dealt with the kind of development executives who think the word “conviction” only means what happens at the end of a “Law and Order” episode.

Jordan Bridges plays Kevin Taylor, who arrives in Hollywood bright-eyed and hopeful until reality (if you don’t have a name, people aren’t just unreceptive, they’re brutal) and a series of subsistence jobs start grinding him down. Kevin eventually lands a job as a script reader for famous but fading producer Muster Hansau (Dan Hedaya), who behaves tyrannically towards his two primary aides (Heather Donahue, Mark Setlock) and has another assistant (Benito Martinez) who essentially functions as a pimp. Kevin resigns himself to this fate, falling in with a trio of other readers (Dan Montgomery, James Marsh, Danny Strong) in similar straits. However, his comrades’ lack of original thought and genuine opinion gets to Kevin, who on the spur of the moment pretends he’s read a hot new script, “New Suit.” His lemming luncheon pals all chime in and say they’ve read it, too – and, what’s more, they liked it. The script nobody’s read gets a reputation – especially because nobody is willing to admit they haven’t read the thing, for fear of seeming out of the loop. Muster and his team want in on the action, if only to stymie Muster’s lifelong rival (Charles Rocket), while Kevin’s trainee agent ex-girlfriend Marianne (Marisa Coughlan) tries to exploit the situation in yet another way. Kevin tries to pull the plug on the prank, but there’s too much at stake in terms of money, ego and face-saving to turn the situation around.

There’s something slightly retro about Sherman’s script, underscored by director Francois Velle’s visuals, which use digital video to create the kind of hyper-vibrant colors associated with ‘60s romantic comedies. It will be interesting to see how “New Suit” translates to home theater, as on the big screen, the digital video has a very filmic look, while the action has a kind of giddy, cheery vibe that contrasts intriguingly with the characters’ actions – they’re all (except Kevin) slimy but strangely sweet.

The sweetness becomes a bit of a problem toward the end, where the filmmakers unwisely have Kevin demonstrating not just ethics but near-saintliness. However, the wheeling and dealing over nothing, and the scrambling by all parties concerned to avoid revelation that they’re in the dark about what they’re talking about so earnestly, is pretty funny and in many instances, uncomfortably true to life. Bridges is likable in the Adam-in-Wonderland role and Coughlan convinces us that her chipper character thinks she’s ever in the right. Donahue, who brings to mind a young Catherine O’Hara, and the triumvirate of Marsh, Montgomery and Strong as the blithely assertive, oblivious development boys, are especially on the money. Paul McCrane also scores as a cucumber-cool studio chief, while Hedaya’s blustery monster seems based in reality.

No composer is credited, but there are 17 tracks listed as source music and scoring, ranging from jazzy riffs to Hendrix-esque guitar, contributing further to the ‘60s flavor.

“New Suit” falters a bit at the finish line, but for the most part, it is a wittily successful reinvention of a story we all know well, depicting behaviors that anybody who has had dealings with Hollywood development will verify aren’t especially exaggerated. At least “New Suit,” unlike reality, makes us want to laugh instead of cry at the situation.

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