DATELINE: Oddest Couple
With the recent death of John Hurt, we turned to our library of films to find one of his best performances in an under-rated movie. Love & Death on Long Island teamed him with Jason Priestley, playing a teeny-bopper star who casts a spell on a dry, pedantic academic writer.
How could we not like this?
Based on Gilbert Adair’s slight novella, the staid Giles stalks the B-movie star Ronnie Bostock, of Skid Marks fame. Hurt cannot tell a microwave oven from a VCR. Nowadays, who could? Yet, he sees art where the artless dwells. He wanders into the wrong movie, and therein lies a tale.
The big issue in the movie is whether Giles sets up his teen idol to turn him into Thomas Chatterton, boy poet who commits suicide. Hurt’s strategy seems to put a sexual threat on his boy-toy of academic research.
This film provided Jason Priestley with an opportunity to raise the stakes in jump-starting his lowly TV fame into something bigger. On that level, the move did not work to turn him from artless into art. However, it remains a worthy stab at high drama in the comedy of life.
Hurt does not disappoint in any scene, leaving enough arch of the brow and lilt of the voice to make him Machiavellian. The 1997 film tried to portray them as an intellectual’s odd couple in a comedy of manners worthy of E.M. Forster.
It is delicious viewing.