Embracing the Melodrama Part II #101: Harvard Man (dir by James Toback)

Oh please, Harvard Man sucks.

I watched this 2002 film for one reason and one reason only.  It stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and I used love Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  In fact, now that I think about it, my love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer has led to me watching a lot of really bad movies.  Seriously, somebody give Nichols Brendon a role in a good movie and do it now!  I’m tired of reading about him getting arrested at conventions.

But anyway, in Harvard Man, Sarah plays Cindy Bandolini, a student at Harvard.  Her father is a gangster and he’s played Gianni Russo, who is best known for playing Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather.  Cindy is also dating the star of Harvard’s basketball team, Alan Jenson (Adrian Grenier).  Cindy knows that Alan’s parents have just lost their farm to a tornado.  She tells Alan that if he’ll throw an upcoming basketball game, her father will pay him $100,000.  However, Mr. Bandolini isn’t really in on the deal.  Instead, Cindy has set it up herself with the help of two of her father’s associates, Teddy (Eric Stoltz) and Teddy’s girlfriend, Kelly (Rebecca Gayheart).

But what Cindy doesn’t know is that both Teddy and Kelly work for the FBI.  She also doesn’t know that Teddy and Kelly are engaging in threesomes with a philosophy professor, Chesney Cort (Joey Lauren Adams) and that Chesney is also having an affair with Alan.

Got all that?

Good.  Of course, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference because Alan is such a passive character that you get the feeling that he really doesn’t care what happens one way or another.  About halfway through the film, he takes a massive dose of LSD and he spends the rest of the film tripping while all of the various characters chase him across Boston.

And then Al Franken shows up, playing himself.  As Alan wanders across campus, Al Franken walks up to him and says, “Hi, I’m Al Franken.”  It turns out that the future senator is showing his daughter around Harvard and wants to ask Alan what the campus is like nowadays.  As future President Franken speaks in his nasal tones, we get all sorts of fun distortion effects so, if you’ve ever wanted to see Al Franken with a big googly face, Harvard Man is the film for you.  Al Franken’s scenes are, however, partially redeemed by the way that the actress playing his daughter rolls her eyes at her desperately uncool dad.

And, of course, while this is going on, we get random scenes of Joey Lauren Adams giving an endless lecture about ethics.  Why, exactly?  I imagine it has something to do with fooling critics like me and making us mistake Harvard Man for a movie with a brain.

Harvard Man is a pretentious mess of a film but it’s a fascinating example of what happens when every single role in a movie is miscast.  Eric Stoltz and Rebecca Gayheart are the least believable FBI agents ever.  You don’t believe for a second that short and scrawny Adrian Grenier could be a basketball star.  Joey Lauren Adams comes across like she’d be lucky to teach at Greendale Community College, much less Harvard.  Al Franken makes for a remarkably unconvincing Al Franken.  And, as much as I loved her in Buffy, Cruel Intentions, and Ringer, I do have to say Sarah Michelle Geller is one of the least convincing Italians that I have ever seen on-screen.

Harvard Man is an incredibly bad film but at least you get to see Al Franken with a googly face,


3 responses to “Embracing the Melodrama Part II #101: Harvard Man (dir by James Toback)

  1. The phrase future president Franken made me throw up in my mouth.
    Autocorrect made it president Frankenstein – which I *do* think I could get behind (the monster, anyway).

    By the way, autocorrect is becoming self-aware and will soon defeat the humans. You heard it here first


    • “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And honestly, could I do any worse?”

      Stuart Smalleys campaign slogan


  2. Pingback: Film Review: Fingers (dir by James Toback) | Through the Shattered Lens

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