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From Hire to Liar:
The Role of Deception in the Workplace
by David Shulman
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
. "The Search For John Gissing"

An attractive cast and good production values make you wonder why distribs have kept away from writer-director Mike Binder's 2001. The explanation might lie in what the studios might consider difficult marketing. But, that's only a guess.

You would hardly expect, from Matthew Barnes' (Binder) broad antics with wife Linda (Janeanne Garofalo) when they land in London jet-lagged and hung out to dry by colleague John Gissing (Alan Rickman), (who promised to pick them up at the airport) that he (Barnes) is astute enough to be brought in by his corporation to close a big merger with a German firm. Doubts about his lack of control are all over the first act, with signs of gross ineptitude all over the place. But it's really not his fault since his floundering about with no British pounds or very many American dollars and a whole range of apparently jinxed consequences are the destructive intentions of a man who thinks of Barnes as a conspiritor being brought in to replace him.

Somehow, after making a fool of himself and Linda in a hotel suite meant for the firm's director (Allan Corduner), and an assortment of other Gissling-contrived tricks to make him look like an idiot -- including a seduction by a gorgeous stooge masquerading as a nun (Sonya Walger) and being given the wrong time for a key meeting -- Barnes holds on to his sanity long enough to realize who's behind all the bad luck. Once that's established, he has no trouble turning the trickery around for some payback. But a lot of harm has been done.

Meanwhile, on the marital front, Linda has been excusing herself to pee rather frequently -- an early sign of pregnancy which she informs her husband of in the most awkward of places. Her dreams are not of corporate advancement but of a family life with lots of kids.

The warring tactics in and out of the boardroom suggest a Moliere farce with the characters and plot to carry it off. Desperate states-of-mind are exaggerated in the editing room when editor Roger Nygard jump cuts the action with an eye to moving the pace of the narrative along as well as indicating the restless confusion of frantic moments. For the most part, the device works well.

Garofalo, in holding back her trademark acerbic wisecracking turns in one of the more sympathetic roles of her career, meeting Binder's sometimes broad style in a productive place. Rickman, on the opposite side of trademark characterizations, does well as the villain and unscrupulous competitor, though his comedic potentials aren't so well mined due to the needs of the script. See what exquisite comic timing he's capable of in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Juliet Stevenson dresses up the executive board in typical incisive fashion.

After self-financing his film and going through the gauntlet of distribution, Binder and his producer Rachel Leonard have released it themselves on DVD. Special Features include an in-depth commentary with Binder and Nygard, deleted scenes and outtakes, behind the scenes featurette, and a photo gallery. If you liked his "Reign Over Me," you'll want to pick it up to widen your grasp of his talent.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Mike Binder and Janeanne Garofalo
Strangers in a strange business warp.

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