Thursday, May 01, 2008

Play It As It Lays

Frank Perry | 1972 | 99 mins | USA

Watching Play It As It Lays feels a bit like being on some heavy downers. It’s slow paced, depressing and oh-so-stylish. It’s sort of like slipping quietly out of consciousness after a long, hard day of schmoozing and being nice to insufferable people. With the help of a pint of gin and valium, of course.

The aforementioned insufferables, the desolate desert landscapes, the petty arguments and improbable film sets all create a terrifically unbearable backdrop for Tuesday Weld to gently fall away from sanity in a hazy post-abortion breakdown. Her only support comes in the acerbic form of Anthony Perkins, her gay best friend. Perkins is probably the best thing about the film, as a disillusioned, mean spirited and quick witted producer.

Not much happens in Play It As It Lays. Films get made, everyone drinks a lot, has one night stands, attends parties and drives along the city’s many intricate highways. Beyond that, it’s just life as usual in soul-numbingly depressing Hollywood, California. It's really a hell of a bummer, but the film wouldn't be nearly as good any other way.

My favourite thing about this bleak film is its’ even more gloriously bleak, unresolved ending. The action trickles to a stop like the blood from a limp, carelessly slit wrist, and provides a perfect end to a perfectly senseless world. Play It As It Lays is notoriously difficult to find on VHS or DVD, but if you get the chance, it’s worth seeing this downer of a movie, if only to see Perkins in his only openly gay role and fabulous shaggy haircut.


Catherine Todd said...

I finally got a chance to read the book, only because of a Patti Scialfa interview where she talked about it and what moved her to write a song of the same name. Now I'm dying to see the film. I remember the film coming out in the early '70's but didn't watch it way back then. Where to find a copy now? Not on Amazon, Netflix, eBay... where?

Thanks for your excellent review. CT

aaron said...

unfortunately, this movie has never been released on VHS or DVD, apparently due in no small part to joan didion's vocal dislike of the adaptation. however, it has made it's way onto late night television over the years so there are bootleg videos floating around, as well as a few film prints. keep your eyes pealed for a copy or start begging your local rep theatre for a screening.

Catherine Todd said...

Dear Aaron,

Thanks for writing! I actually found a copy online for $25.00 plus $5 shipping (VHS or CD) and the person swears it's "not copied from TV" (hard to believe, since it's not anywhere else & you say it was never released that way), so I decided to pass, plus it's too expensive.

Wish I could see the film, though! I remember it from the '70's but don't remember if I actually saw it or just heard about it.

Let me know if you find it somewhere, too. Thanks! Yours, CT,

Joseph Kearny said...

You can see the entire film on YouTube for free though I don't recommend it.