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07.30.08

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Phaedra

Permanent Midnight

One disc; Lionsgate; $14.98

By Richard von Busack


The 1998 film version of Hollywood scribe Jerry Stahl's autobiographical spike-opera hasn't gained much stature 10 years later. In interviews, the writer says star Ben Stiller made him "a different type of asshole" than he was in real life. Stiller gives an unusually skeevy performance. Stahl was making $5,000 a week in Hollywood, spending it all on heroin and squirting his blood on some expensive ceilings. If the addiction part of the story strains the compassion, the roster of women Stahl goes through won't make you feel more like Mother Teresa. In between screwing up jobs and stealing Percodins, Stiller seduces Connie Nielsen, marries and impregnates Elizabeth Hurley and lays a kiss on Janeane Garafalo (so cute in her dark, nerdish way, yet so utterly devoid of onscreen muskiness; we really used to worry about that back in the 1990s). Moreover, Stiller's Stahl tells his whole sordid story horizontal in a motel bed to a young Maria Bello. Charles "Roger Rabbit" Fleischer does the voice of "Mr. Chompers," the thinly veiled version of extraterrestrial puppet Alf; writing for the foam-rubber TV critter was one of Stahl's credits. Included is the commentary track by director David Veloz. Snippets from the cutting-room floor include Stahl's biggest enormity, hitting on the wife of his best friend, played by Owen Wilson (so much for the cautionary qualities of these tales of addiction). The deletion of the other scenes kept the phrase "labe jockey" from entering the urban lexicon, as well as passing on what would have been the first onscreen mention of Hellboy comics. (Who's laughing now?)


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