Seducing Charlie Barker at O Cinema December 9-15

An arrogant, struggling actor leaves his wife for a sexy, unstable younger woman, which would be a perfectly serviceable starting point for Ibsen or Woody Allen. Yet in adapting her recent play The Scene, Theresa Rebeck can't find a consistent tone for her material or players. Charlie (Stephen Barker Turner) is a grouch living off his TV-producer wife Stella (Daphne Zuniga), who hopes to adopt a baby from China. He's not quite a clown, not quite a cad, just another dude in a midlife crisis who impulsively grabs at a hot piece of ass in a red dress.

That would be Clea (Heather Gordon), a crazy-eyed sex doll who speaks in nonstop non sequiturs. She's the sort of dangerous nincompoop who ought to be deployed in a fast-paced, bed-hopping farce. Instead, as directed by Amy Glazer, Seducing Charlie Barker is rather sluggish, regularly depositing its hero on Manhattan park benches to ponder his folly. Charlie and Stella are a typical couple in a typical dilemma ("I pay all the bills around here!"), and Clea never feels like more than a stage device to sink their already strained marriage.

Why would this ditz fall for this schlub? When Woody Allen casts himself in such a role, he answers the same charge by being funny (or at least rich). Here, Charlie sputters at Clea, "You fuck like a bunny, but you have no soul." Right—men are looking for soul in an affair. Says Stella about the adultery, "There's not even a shred of originality to it." Same applies to the movie.


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