Movie Review: 'Seduced and Abandoned' (2013)

“Seduced and Abandoned” follows actor Alec Baldwin and director James Toback (“Harvard Man”) as they attend the world renowned, Cannes Film Festival, to obtain funding for a movie they bill as an homage to “Last Tango in Paris”. In their film, Baldwin would star opposite Neve Campbell (“Scream”) in a lust story, set amidst the backdrop of the War in Iraq.

The plot sounds, to put it mildly, strange, and it is obvious that a film veteran like Baldwin would know it. It can be deduced from the sheer concept that this is one grand jab at Hollywood, guised as a sentimental portrait of “pictures” and the festival, that Baldwin admits he never attended until, making this documentary (or mockumentary?).

The film is shrouded in self-induced vagueness. It would seem, we are either in on, a highly sophisticated joke or that the Hollywood, aficionados are so familiar with, simply comes across dull when actually committed to film. Through the film, he and Toback gain access to some of Hollywood’s elite filmmakers; including directors Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and regrettably, Roman Polanski, among others.

They shoot the veritable breeze, chatting about the past and present state of filmmaking. This is where the fascination factor surrounding the film sparks. Scorsese and Coppola, especially, open up and what is so insightful and at the same time peculiar is what they have to say. 

Here are two filmmakers who have pushed the envelope, since the beginning of their careers, with controversial subject matters and breakthrough direction techniques, both lamenting the loss of the “golden age”. An age they claim took place between the 20’s – 50’s and neither were a part of.

They are speaking on behalf of a Hollywood that has ushered in social and technological progress and yet both men, who were on the frontier of change, want to conserve the way things used to be.

What happened to embracing progress? It’s all tempestuously cloudy now. One should not brand them as conservative though. They just loved the way things were or rather they want to maintain the creative integrity of the past. Yes, that's it. 

On the acting side of things, the self-amused Ryan Gosling shows up, humoring Baldwin and Toback with bizarre vignettes and answers to their questions. His personality is so zanily guarded that it is hard to know the truth from fiction. He does offer up a glaringly honest assessment of the acting world that is lost on some people; the humiliating and banal activity that might or might not result in an actor’s “big break” - the audition process. 

 The classy Jessica Chastain weighs in. She comes off as incredibly earnest, articulate and heartfelt. She too offers insight into the craft of acting and she takes it seriously, something that adds to her appeal. Diane Kruger also steps in and she too, is open and astoundingly blunt.

For cinema-lovers and behind-the-scenes enthusiasts, the greatest peak the film offers is visiting the backrooms of the big hitters. Producer extraordinaire Avi Lerner, comes in and talks turkey. He is everything you have read about and more; direct and to the point.

He affirms the cast system, explaining that while Neve Campbell is well-liked personally; her current list-standing, makes it next to impossible to fund her as a lead. This is where things get real. Not all actors are assessed equally by producers and every actor in Hollywood knows it.

Perhaps most conspicuous in their absence are the Ellison siblings (Megan and David), who were making major waves that year, especially Megan [Ellison] with her production company; Annapurna Pictures.

Her film “Lawless” was being screened in competition for the Palme d’Ore and both siblings were being feted at the festival for their respective youth. Notably leveraging their vast fortune to make the year’s most buzzed about films. Certainly a meeting with them would be a funding must. They were taking numerous gambles that year.

In terms of the film’s direction, Toback’s constant use of screen splintering causes a distractive frenzy that would have been better used in small doses. For Baldwin "Seduced and Abandoned" is a brave endeavor. Microphones pickup comments about his lack of box office appeal and he is labeled a “TV actor”, the buzz-kill to any leading film actor’s dreams.

Picasso once said, “Art is a lie that reveals the truth.” Some could surmise that “Seduced and Abandoned” does just that, by awakening viewers to the realities of Hollywood by possibly utilizing a little subterfuge to get it. Rating: 7.6/10

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