"The Leading Man": John Duigan

Guy-Jean De Fraumeni | October 17, 1996

U.K.

Thursday and Sunday, 7 p.m.

"The Leading Man" is Jon Bon Jovi, the prettily handsome rock star from New Jersey who, as Robin Grange, a hot American movie idol, is stopping hearts in London, where he is to star in a stage play, "The Hit Man. . . ." The rehearsals are complicated by his heated entrance into an already simmering proscenium.

The real-life Mr. Bon Jovi shoulders his way into the sleek professionalism of the British cast by using his dimples and ruffled hair like a prying bar to fit in. Lambert Wilson also stars in a typically Jeremy Irons role as the playwright who has a gorgeous and talented Italian wife exactly played by Anna Galiena, and three children, and a lovely young Earth Kittenish mistress, soberly portrayed by Thandie Newton.

She is the play's ingenue and an object of the leading man's pushy affections. But why? After all, scores of women go limp upon sight of him or reveal parts of their bodies for him to autograph or write his phone number. Is it to rankle the playwright? Is it wise for the playwright to okay the leading man's offer to seduce his wife so that her anger doesn't get any more physical than cutting the ends of his ties?

The original screenplay by Virginia Duigan is quite clever as it pushes and pulls the character's emotions and alternates between total unbelievability and touching reality. I noted that the screenplay was funded in development by the Australian Film Commission's Women's Fund (United States, please take note).

As directed by John Duigan, it is slick, a little sick, and coyly entertaining. Distinguished members of the film's theatrical cast like David Warner and Patricia Hodge seemed to enjoy it and so did I.