A combination of cocaine lines, a threesome with two bolt-on Barbie dolls, and the lashings from a sassy housekeeper the morning after is liable to send any ole aging actor into flashback mode. Tack on getting fired from your agent and a phone call from your mother informing you of the death of your oldest childhood friend, and you've got the recipe for Flashbacks of a Fool. To think, that all happens within the brief first act! Yes, it's disjointed and becomes growingly unbelievable amid its melodrama, but there's still a lot of flowing characterization and hearty emotion that works in favor of its well-placed performances and sparse flickers of chemistry.
Daniel Craig (The Invasion plays Joe Scott, an unscrupulous and numb washed-up actor on a severe bender. He wakes up one morning swimming in the excesses of his lavish star's post-life, living day after day from his wealth while growing more narcissistic and disagreeable along the way. When he downs a stiff cocktail of bad news one day, he fights back in the only way that he knows how: by grabbing a bottle of spirits and staggering off into the ocean next to his bluff-topped home. While drifting, he suddenly seeps into a flashback of the major events that brought him to that particular point in his life. It pieces together a stylish rendition of Stand By Me's rearview-mirror style of insight, though it misses the boat in becoming a wistful charmer like Rob Reiner's boyhood drama.
Whether Flashbacks of a Fool should be titled "Flashback of a Fool" is debatable; as Joe drifts, he's taken to a point in his pubescent years -- a time where he seems respectful, giving, and somewhat shy. All these events feel like they take place within a few days' time, though the whirlwind of sexual revelation, romantic ignition, and family dynamic shifts seems crammed together to a point that suggests time blurring. Perhaps that's the intent, as most people tend to lose firm definition of memories as they stray further and further from their past. Or, it could be that Flashbacks of a Fool just tries much too hard to invoke feeling amid obvious, cannonball-sized bursts of melodrama. The shape that the title molds for Baillie Walsh's film, however, just seems too intentional to ignore as this larger chunk of sun-drenched summer heartbreak unfolds.
No matter the aim, Flashbacks of a Fool indisputably sticks out with one of the firmest act-structure rhythms I've encountered, both in visual design and narrative. Each of these partitioned chunks almost feels like three different films: a slick-edged drama / comedy hybrid drenched in moody blues, a whimsical retread into a boy's discomforting jolt into manhood highlighted by sunlit oranges, and an over-the-edge, emerald-lit conciliatory yarn that closes the story with enough sentimentality to fill an 80,000+ seat stadium. The jury's still out as to whether this concrete segmentation was a wise decision or not; essentially, this wide span of flashback material intentionally disconnects the audience from Joe -- redirecting their attention to young Joe, who seems altogether different -- for over half the film. In effect, it creates the environment for Joe to "change" as he's washing along with the waves and drunkenly dreaming of his past, but it also sets up a pretty rickety structure to support a quick realization for this unabashed, self-destructive egomaniac.
It all works, in varying degrees, because of noteworthy performances from the "Joes". Daniel Craig was a good choice for the role as older Joe, especially during his stint as the "it"-action star from the rehashed James Bond franchise and the solid indie mob flick, Layer Cake. He allows the older Joe character to feed off of his unique age and maturity that balances well with his fractured motivations, which successfully delivers a vis-à-vis rhythm that could've easily folded over to caricaturist levels. He especially handles the third act's overblown drama well by restraining older Joe from instantly blossoming into a changed man, which becomes one of the few glimmers of understated realism that we get to grasp onto.
Harry Eden (Oliver Twist) helps with the balance as the younger Joe, as he mirrors an alternate, less-weathered version of Craig's Flashbacks persona with the kind of awkward, testosterone-driven earnestness that chugs along well with the story curve. It also doesn't hurt that Jodhi May's performance as Evelyn, the "woman next door" that ultimately gets Joe in trouble, exudes with the kind of raw, sullied sensuality that becomes a stomach-churning element for both young Joe and the audience soaking in their unnerving tango. Her performance gets the mood just right, which lays a foundation for the lengthy flashback sequence that persistently keeps the audience intrigued. May (The Last of the Mohicans) becomes one of the standout components of the film, which made her one of the real magnets that kept me focused on the picture.
But even with a few more solid supporting performances from Eve and Claire Forlani that barely overstep cameo-level interaction, Flashbacks of a Fool never can break away from being all about the rigid coin-flipping revelation that Joe Scott endures. In this, amid force-fed emotionality and disjointed structure, the Craig-fueled vehicle barely succeeds as a character analysis. It becomes less about Joe's journey from vanity to openness by becoming more about soaking in each fragment for its odds and ends, which makes for more of a vignette-style film instead of a fluid expression. Considering the flagrant ease in which everything occurs over such a short timeframe, that's not such a bad thing for this well-tempered, melancholy story.
Anchor Bay brings Flashbacks of a Fool to home video in a surprisingly well-assembled package, sporting both a chapter listing and a cardboard slipcase for a dash of aesthetic enjoyment.
Though the 2.35:1 aspect ratio seems a little awkward for the tone of the film, it conveys beautifully in Anchor Bay's aptly-presented transfer. With the segmentation of the film in mind, there are three very distinct color schemes: colder blues for the start, warm oranges for the dreamy midsection, and fresh greens for the blossoming conclusion. Color replication, in turn, appears surprisingly vivid as it fluctuates from palette to palette. Visual details don't become all that important across the dialogue and drama-driven picture, but many texture and grain efforts popped well from the image. It's a great looking image which boosts Flashback of a Fool's mood up a few notches just on visual temperament.
As a match to the moody visual presentation, its English Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation covers the same basis: concentration on what's important, meaning the core drama and dialogue, but also including a few earmarks for enjoyment's sake. Speech was always crisp and clear, though it varies in its clarity based on the thematic situations and the sound levels of the score. Close-quartered scenes, though muffled, still never dropped in audibility. Since the majority of the film takes place near two Oceanside locales, the supplemental sound effects I mentioned come in the form of wave splashes and other atmospheric effects that trail occasionally to the rear speakers. It's a nicely-executed verbal presentation with a touch of added dimensionality for our enjoyment. Only optional English subtitles are available.
We're not working with too much int he supplemental department, only able to work through a two-minute series of Interviews, as well as a few U.K Television Spots. There's also an anamorphic Theatrical Trailer, but it's not recommended viewing before the film -- seeing as how it gives away just about every significant dramatic moment from the film.
Oft-times sensual and reminiscent, while other times heartbreaking, Flashbacks of a Fool sends its audience through a gauntlet of dramatic assault -- and manages to get a few worthwhile shots in. It's a nice turn for Daniel Craig, as it alleviates too much strenuous characterization and allows for his unpolished emotionality. The story's a little wonky, despite being so cleanly broken into acts, but each fragment holds its merits that makes the picture worth seeing. Anchor Bay's digital presentation looks and sounds pretty darn good, which makes this Craig-driven drama a solidly Recommended affair.
Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site