What Spike Lee's 25th Hour is really about. - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old Dec 20th, 2002, 07:15 AM Thread Starter
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Smile What Spike Lee's 25th Hour is really about.

Norton contemplating anal rape

Back Door Blues
What Spike Lee's 25th Hour is really about.
By David Edelstein
Posted Thursday, December 19, 2002, at 2:45 PM PT

Spike Lee's entrancing 25th Hour (Touchstone) revolves around Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), a convicted New York drug dealer with only one day left before he heads upstate to prison for seven years. Monty passes the hours by thinking back over his life as the son of alcoholic firefighter turned bar owner (Brian Cox), the courier of a Russian mobster, and the boyfriend of a hotcha Puerto Rican girl (Rosario Dawson) who might have tipped off agents to his stash. He also reaches out to his childhood pals, the timid prep-school English teacher Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the ruthless Wall Street hotshot Slaughtery (Barry Pepper). Although the novel and the screenplay (both by David Benioff) were written before 9/11, Lee injects New York's tragedy into the mix. He opens with a shot of two beams of light where the twin towers once stood. And as Monty and a dog he has picked up wander the city—perhaps for the last time—we see a steady stream of American flags and memorials, even Ground Zero itself.

At its best, 25th Hour is a melancholy tone poem, deeply affecting in its mute apprehension of loss, with a lush, imposing orchestral score by Terence Blanchard that could be titled "Elegy for 9/11," along with Bruce Springsteen's "The Fuse" (with a Blanchard string arrangement) over the closing credits. But the movie is also muddled by its own ambitions. There is simply no connection between the themes of Benioff's screenplay and 9/11, and every time Lee over-inflates the story, he loses its real pulse. In one sequence, Jacob and Slaughtery stand before a large picture window with a prime view of Ground Zero. They're talking about their friend's coming maximum-security imprisonment: Jacob has a naive faith that Monty will emerge intact in seven years; Slaughtery doesn't think that a slender cutie like him will survive among all those muscular, horny sociopaths for very long. But all that registers for the audience is the pit; and Lee ends the scene with a long, mournful shot of bulldozers clearing away what once was the World Trade Center.

Barring the unlikely idea that the bulldozers symbolize said muscular sociopaths, something central hasn't been fully dramatized. Not to put too fine a point on it, the story of 25th Hour is fueled by the threat of anal rape: It's what preoccupies Monty, and it's the heart of the sexual-panic motif that runs (subtly, mischievously) through the screenplay (in different directorial hands, the film could been a queasy comedy). Monty urges his girlfriend to put on a short, clingy, cleavage-baring white dress for his last night at a mob-owned nightclub with the boys; Jacob struggles with his lust for his flirty poetry student (Anna Paquin), who shows up high on Ecstasy and pulls him into a druggy, slow-motion pas de deux that's one of the movie's high spots; and Slaughtery spends his spare time numerically quantifying his and his buddies' desirability to women. Sexual panic fuels the wrenching climax, too, in which Monty prevails upon Slaughtery to save him from those muscular convicts by doing something that no pal should ever have to do—but that many pals might want to do. To make any sense, 25th Hour needed the kind of displaced homoerotic vibe that David Fincher brought to Fight Club (1999). But Lee is not—how can I put this tactfully?—a director who seems comfortable tackling homoeroticism, even for a second, even obliquely. And besides, he has monuments to 9/11 to erect.

After a spate of dull and/or gimmicky performances, Norton is once again in his peculiar element: His voice and countenance are angry, but his body has a plaintive, poetic curl. His reediness is a nice foil for the big, doleful Hoffman, who here sounds uncannily like Al Franken (with a bit of Dustin Hoffman nasality). The only jarring note in Norton's characterization is a scene in the spirit of Do the Right Thing (1989), in which Monty stares into the mirror and delivers a syncopated harangue against the city's sundry ethnic groups. It's not clear what any of these tribes have to do with Monty's predicament—he's an educated Irish white boy who works for Russians. But it does set up Lee's (and Blanchard's) lyrical leave-taking of the city, when all the groups that fueled Monty's rage are now seen bidding him a tender adieu. This is love supreme in a Spike Lee joint: a place where you hate everyone and everyone hates you, but parting is such sweet sorrow.

Here's the official Web site of 25th Hour. In this interview with the New York Times, Spike Lee discusses the post-Sept. 11 images in the film and complains about how hard it is for him to get directing jobs these days. When Lee leaves the room, Norton, who reportedly did 25th Hour for a mere $500,000 because he admires Lee so much, defends his friend: "The whole thing that's happening to Spike is b.s. I didn't want to say this in front of him, but he's suffering from the Woody Allen syndrome. People say, 'Oh, it's just another Spike Lee movie.' " In this 2001 review, the Times' Janet Maslin called David Benioff's novel "a pungent, funny urban tableau full of shrewd operators and unfulfilled desires." The book puts Monty in jail, but the 25th Hour movie liberated its author from the life of a starving writer. This Los Angeles Times profile shows how high Benioff is riding now: Having recently sold another screenplay for $1.8 million, he calls his posh new pad "the house that 'Stay' bought."
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Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) gets to spend 24 hours with his two best friends before he goes to prison for seven years for pushing heroin in "25th Hour."

‘25th Hour’ one of year’s best films

Spike Lee accurately depicts New York life
after Sept. 11

By Christy Lemire

Dec. 19 — Spike Lee accomplishes a couple of remarkable things with “25th Hour.” He takes a potentially preachy subject — a drug dealer’s last day of freedom before beginning a seven-year prison term — and infuses it with disarming realism. And he’s made the first movie — not a documentary, but a feature — to depict New York accurately in the months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

THE FILM’S tag line — “Can you change your whole life in a day?” — suggests the kind of prepackaged, perfectly timed epiphanies that made recent movies like “Pay It Forward,” “Life as a House” and “Life or Something Like It” so mind-numbingly gooey.
In Lee’s movie, no one knows what to say or how to act around Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) before he leaves.

Not his girlfriend, Naturelle Rivera (Rosario Dawson), who may have turned him in to the cops. Not his childhood friends, slick Wall Street trader Francis Slaughtery (Barry Pepper) and self-loathing high school teacher Jacob Elinsky (Philip Seymour Hoffman), with whom he has nothing in common anymore besides a shared history. And not his father (Brian Cox), who doesn’t know how to help his son because he’s still mourning Monty’s deceased mother.
The conversations they have in David Benioff’s script, based on his 2001 novel of the same name, ring true because they’re not perfect. Monty’s friends feel guilty because they knew he was dealing drugs, yet they never tried to stop him. Naturelle especially benefited from her boyfriend’s profession; she lived with him in a beautiful brownstone, ignoring the stash hidden inside a couch cushion.
So Monty doesn’t really change that much in the 24 hours before he leaves for prison, and that’s what’s great about “25th Hour.” It would have been easy to take a bad person and make him good, but Monty wasn’t really a bad person to begin with. He was a drug dealer and he got greedy, so he probably doesn’t deserve our sympathy. But the character is developed so completely, and Norton breathes such life into him, it’s hard not to care about what happens to him.


Lee and Benioff also create a stunningly complete vision of New York City, post-Sept. 11.
The novel was finished before the attacks, but there’s no way that Lee, who personifies New York, could be true to his craft and true to his city without showing the way it changed.
After Sept. 11, filmmakers struggled with how to depict a New York that had become vastly different from the one they’d captured on celluloid. Some digitally erased the World Trade Center towers (“Zoolander”) or edited out shots that included them (“Kissing Jessica Stein,” “Serendipity”). Others simply left them in (“Glitter,” “City by the Sea”).
Lee’s unflinching title sequence focuses on the downtown skyline as it appeared around the one-year anniversary of the attacks, with two beams of light stretching skyward from the spot where the towers had stood.
Monty visits his father at the bar he owns in Staten Island — a firefighter hangout with memorials on the walls to the men who died.
And Slaughtery and Jacob have a long conversation in front of a picture window in Slaughtery’s high-rise apartment, which overlooks Ground Zero. Jacob asks whether Slaughtery plans to move, since the air quality downtown is so bad.
Slaughtery’s response: “(Bleep) that, man. Bin Laden could drop in next door — I ain’t movin’.”
People living elsewhere may think Lee is beating the audience over the head with the imagery, but that’s what the city was really like. It was saturated in sorrow — you couldn’t escape talking or thinking about what had happened.
Lee seamlessly blends Monty’s story with New York City’s. The result is darkly funny and powerful, with insightful performances from Norton, Hoffman and Pepper. It’s the director’s best work since “Malcolm X,” maybe even since “Do the Right Thing,” and it’s one of the year’s best films.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old Dec 21st, 2002, 06:28 AM
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Ddn't fully get that article, but oh well. I wanna see the movie. It has my favorite actors in it! And congrats to Rosario Dawson, coming a long way from Josie and the Pussy Cats!

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