'Collaborator' doesn't work

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

The Collaborator is a drama about a playwright who learns to spin dross into gold as his life is coming undone.

The film opens with Robert (Martin Donovan, who also wrote and directed) hearing his new play being savaged on a radio show. The announcers have a good laugh at his expense, and talk about his far-more-successful wife, a photographer.

Keen to find work of some kind, Robert travels to L.A. from the east coast. He's staying with his elderly mother in the house where he grew up. Across the street, he notices his neighbour Gus (David Morse) a sadsack living with his own mom on a permanent basis. Gus has been in jail, and now spends his days drinking beer and hanging around the house.

Robert visits an actress named Emma Stiles (Olivia Williams) with whom he is collaborating on a movie script. There's obviously some unfinished romantic business between them. Later, back at his mother's house, Robert agrees to meet Emma again, but just as he's getting ready to leave, Gus drops over.

As usual, Gus has a few drinks in him already. Robert is understandably alarmed as squad cars pull up to their block and armed policemen surround Gus' place; when a policeman comes to Robert's house to evacuate him from the scene, Gus takes Robert hostage at gunpoint.

What happens next is a long conversation between Gus and Robert about writing, movies, politics, Robert's soldier brother and dozens of other topics. There's some tension, but not much, as Robert's focus is to keep Gus calm in the hopes that he'll somehow get out of the situation alive; of course, two guys in a room with armed cops outside also constitutes a chance for some writerly writing and actorly acting.

It's tough to buy. The experience here is more akin to watching a play, complete with unnatural acting, low affect characters and a claustrophobic setting. This is Donovan's directorial debut; you can see the potential, but it just doesn't work.


Photos