Seducing Charlie Barker
Directed by Amy Glazer
Written by Theresa Rebeck, adapted from her play “The Scene”
Starring: Daphne Zuniga, Stephen Barker Turner, Heather Gordon, David Wilson Barnes
Run Time: 93 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R
“Seducing Charlie Barker” may have been made on a skimpy budget, with no big-name actors, and directed by a woman whose only other feature was a modest effort that went straight to DVD, but don’t let that keep you away. This is one funny movie. It’s got everything a studio would pay big money for—a witty script, pitch-perfect acting, some clever pacing and editing, and even a blonde bombshell of a newcomer whose performance is just as natural and as hypnotizing as her voluptuous bosom.
The director, Amy Glazer, is a San Francisco theater director who has only recently decided to work in film, choosing to take the plays she works on and translate them into the film medium, possibly as a way of preserving them, but also, she has intimated in interviews, in order to “shape” the story in her own way. “Seducing Charlie Barker” is such a project. It began life first as the play “The Scene” by Theresa Rebeck, which eventually had a successful run off-Broadway. Amy Glazer directed the play in San Francisco, where she lives, and many of the same actors in her theatrical production also star in the film version—Daphne Zuniga (best known for her roles, past and present, in “Melrose Place”) plays the wife of the eponymous character (played by Stephen Barker Turner), an out-of-work actor going through a midlife crisis, and Heather Gordon (the young actress with the sexpot body) plays the amoral ladder-climber who seduces him, and eventually turns his life upside down.
The film may look a little cheap around the edges (the set designer must have spent a lot of time at IKEA), and some of the score is a little cheesy, but who cares when all the actors are chewing up the scenery like they’ve been doing this for ages. (Oh right, they have been.) This is where this small film could find a niche in the big time-the performances are exceptional, especially Heather Gordon’s psychotic turn as a bad girl acting like a good girl trying out being a bad girl. You want to hate her, but you’re so mesmerized by what comes out of her mouth that you can’t help but kind of like her. When she explains why Charlie’s wife should be the one to leave her own house after having found her in bed with her husband, we can’t help but wonder where she learned such skewed logic. She may be a “succubus” (as Charlie’s best friend calls her) without an ounce of ethics, but at least she can defend her own bad behavior with the verbosity of a true politico. And did I say the boobs are real?
Amy Glazer should take some credit as well for this witty jaunt into farce. Her film may have started out as a play, but it doesn’t feel like a filmed version of a play at all. It’s got some visual heft, it feels open and breathless, and there are a few classic cuts that drive the irony home in ways that I can’t imagine the play could have done. The actors may be the reason to go see “Seducing Charlie Barker,” but without Ms. Glazer to give the film its “shape,” there would be no Charlie Barker to go see.