FILM REVIEW: ‘One Night’ of laughter

By Jane Smith
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
April 30, 2001

Ever become so obsessed that you would give up your job, home and possibly even your life?

Harold Zwart, director of the newly released “One Night at McCool’s,” notices it only takes the right smile set upon a glam body to drive some men to this point, and one crazed woman to lure them there.

Life in a quaint Missouri town has three men drained of emotional spirit — the type of spirit that makes it worthwhile screaming, “Thank you God!” Randy (Matt Dillon), the local bartender at McCool’s, leads a life riddled with artificial laughs and forces himself to find merriment in serving local frat boys and his cousin Carl (Paul Reiser). Haunted by the stresses of his big-time lawyer career, dull marriage and pesky children, Carl searches McCool’s for a spark of passion. A particular night at the rundown bar revamps these two pathetic lives.

Jewel Valentine (Liv Tyler), an angelic, frisky, voluptuous, hillbilly girl, is introduced through the passionate recollections of Randy, Carl and local Detective Dehling (John Goodman).

Lonely and puppy-eyed, Jewel has the power to compel the three men into lustful frenzies filled with sex, neurosis and murder. All she wants are the simple things in life; a gorgeous home, plush sofas with matching curtains and, of course, a home entertainment center with a DVD player.

With a couple of messy murders, a few robbed homes and a lot of sexual fantasies on their hands, Randy, Carl and Detective Dehling attempt to cope with the realities of life while avoiding the treacherous rapture of Ms. Valentine. The film is an account of three males infatuated by the soft, delicate beauty Jewel shows the outside world and the rough, fiery attitude she exhibits in the bedroom.

Jewel’s tantalizing sexual prowess is captured through Zwart’s slow motion close-ups that portray her in some typical male fantasy scenarios. Unless you can whole-heartedly appreciate Liv Tyler spraying herself with a garden hose and rubbing soap in between her legs while performing the simple task of washing a car, you might think Zwart is a chauvinistic pig. Amidst the bizarre promotional pitches for Tyler, is a great line-up for laughs that keeps the momentum of the movie moving at a quick and light-hearted pace.

“One Night at McCool’s” focuses around Ms. Valentine even though her feelings and motivations are left out completely. Though this may seem unfair to feminists, Zwart pulls off something entirely unique by presenting only the thoughts of Randy, Carl and Dehling.Sure, the woman is objectified and the camera centers a good portion of its time on Tyler’s breasts, legs and lips, but Zwart comically portrays some of the underlying fears and thoughts men have about women in a very candid fashion.

The excellent casting and creative script writing transform an average storyline into a comical relief session. The moviegoer is not pressured to take home any deep and life-interpreting meanings, but is asked to enjoy the small absurdities, like Reiser in bondage gear or Goodman confessing to a father of the quaint Missourian town. One Night at McCool’s delivers great T&A, hilarious circumstances and twisted takes on the sport of romance, but is more befitting for the home entertainment system (possibly a first-rate DVD player) rather than the big-screened theater.

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