The Dying Gaul (2005)

“I’m not asking you to jettison any of your principles.”

Struggling screenwriter, Robert Sandrich (Peter Sarsgaard) writes a screenplay called The Dying Gaul. Based on autobiographical events, it concerns the relationship between two gay men. Hollywood executive Jeffrey Tishop (Campbell Scott) offers the desperate and emotionally fragile Robert a million dollars for the screenplay–BUT–Robert must agree to change the two main characters to a heterosexual couple. This presents a dilemma for Robert–he really needs the money; he’s trying to support an ex-wife and a child, but since the play is based on his relationship with his now deceased lover, Robert feels that altering the story from its focus on a gay relationship will be betraying his dead lover and what they once shared.

From director/writer Craig Lucas, The Dying Gaul is full of twists and turns. Part thriller, part mystery, the film is never boring, but the story isn’t pleasant, and some of the twists are less-than-believable. The film explores the bizarre triangle that forms around Robert, Jeffrey and his wife Elaine (Patricia Clarkson)–a former screenplay writer who now lolls around the pool all day long. Sympathies shift as characters reveal their nasty sides, and just who is pulling the strings here isn’t always evident. The film’s beginning is extremely strong, and there’s something not quite nice about the manner in which Jeffrey manipulates Robert into abandoning his principles. Jeffrey espouses a morally bleak position, and then begins to seduce Robert into it–after all, Jeffrey argues, no one goes to see a film “to learn anything.” Peter Sarsgaard, who seems to delight in taking difficult roles, delivers a fantastic performance. Is he a victim, a user, or a catalyst for disaster? Well watch the film (along with the alternate ending) and decide for yourself.

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