Hit and Runway
1999, R, 108 min. Directed by Christopher Livingston. Starring Michael Parducci, Peter Jacobson, John Fiore, Hoyt Richards, Kerr Smith, Judy Prescott, J.K. Simmons, Teresa De Priest.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 4, 2001
The old writers' adage goes: Write what you know. While that advice might make for a more authentic writing experience, it also means there are a whole lot of film school grads out there making painfully autobiographical movies about making movies -- or, in this case, writing movies. And believe me, the only thing more excruciating than the actual writing process is watching someone else go through that process onscreen. The forcefully “odd” couple of Alex, an Italian-American macho-macho man, and Elliot, a brilliant yet neurotic gay Jewish playwright in black-rimmed glasses, comes together to write a blockbuster screenplay (titled, yes, Hit and Runway). Their script is about a 007 Lothario who busts a supermodel smuggling ring, and the scenes from the movie-within-a-movie are appropriately B-grade cheese. Those scenes are interspersed with Elliot and Alex's attempts to hash out the plot of the screenplay, which unsurprisingly begins to mirror the subplots of their own lives. Life lessons are learned, which are then applied to the duo's script, so that it all works out in a neatly circular trick no doubt picked up in Screenwriting 101. And it's that very knowingness that's the undoing of Hit and Runway. It's by the numbers, straight from the texts of Syd Field, and relentlessly unoriginal. Elliot, though appealingly played by Jacobson, is Woody Allen with a gay pride button. There's even an intentional reference to Allen's famous black-and-white park bench shot from Manhattan, and that reference suffers from the same film-school smugness as the B-movie scenes: Just because the tone is tongue-in-cheek doesn't make it any less irritating. While it's, um, sweet that the film is the semi-autobiographical retelling of director Christopher Livingston and writing/producing partner Jaffe Cohen's working relationship (Livingston the straight man to Cohen' s funny/gay man), one wonders if a little distance from the subject matter might have made them more exacting with their script and direction. The fictionalization of their journey is simply not that engrossing, nor are their alter egos, with their tightly scripted character arcs. In Hit and Runway, the write-what-you-know ethos means a story we've seen too many times already, told with an excess of sentimentality and undistinguished by a feeble, innocuous sense of humor. It's a sense of humor that Livingston and Cohen's mothers undoubtedly chuckled at, but if there's one more cardinal rule for writers it is: Never use your mom as a litmus test for what's good.