Release: Thursday, January 19, 2017 (limited)
Written by: Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Woody Harrelson
Has Woody Harrelson just reinvented the wheel? Or just lost his mind? One thing is for certain: he has taken risk and vulnerability to an entirely new level with his decision to direct, write, and star in the first-ever full-length feature film to be live-streamed into select American cinemas (approximately 500 nationwide, with one international location in London).
The unlikelihood of this film happening hits you over and again as you watch rehearsed chaos unfold in real time. Never mind that the shoot had to be adjusted to accommodate a police investigation into the discovery of an undetonated World War II bomb found at the bottom of the Thames.* Or that a 100-minute-long, single shot necessitated every cast and crew member to be on form like they had never been before. One stumble, one forgotten line, one unforeseen development (I guess I mean besides the unearthing/unwatering of an archaic explosive device) would spell disaster.
Lost in London is a dramatization of a little run-in the actor had while visiting the city back at the turn of the century. Harrelson was on a trip to take his family to the set of the Harry Potter films. This was of course before he experienced a career resurgence that now finds the former Cheers star taking part in iconic blockbusters like Star Wars and the rebooted Planet of the Apes sequel. It details, apparently, “the worst night of [his] life” when he had an altercation with a cab driver and then the coppers after becoming belligerent and destructive. He spent a night in jail. As repentance, he offered to take his jailor and his son to the set as well (or at least he does in the film).
That what you are witnessing is taking place at that very moment elevates the experience. Perhaps that’s something that only holds intrigue for the millennial, and the gimmickry tends to bring attention to itself when parts of the film slow to a crawl as it’s clear the filmmakers are trying to just make it through the shoot without any foul-ups. In his holding cell, the actor is visited in his sleep by the “Dalai Lama of Texas” himself, Willie Nelson. He’s a welcomed presence but he comes into a part of the film where the story seems to be running out of gas. Even still, there’s a surprising amount of narrative cohesion and laughter to be had in this self-deprecatory examination of how Hollywood celebs are viewed in other countries. Owen Wilson features prominently as well, playing up the personal relationship he has shared with Harrelson for over two decades. Wes Anderson is frequently cited (natch).
Lost in London is absolutely a vanity project but it works on so many levels it would spoil the fun to question why the popular Hollywood A-lister felt the need to present himself in this way and to put himself under such incredible stress for the sake of reinvention. This is more than a gimmick; this is a potential gateway to the future. And to think so many of your fellow thespians doubted you, Woodrow. Actors know that taking risks is vital for personal and professional growth. It’s time now for you to sit back, relax, and reap the rewards. You’ve created something that’s not only unique but damn well entertaining.
* My screening experienced a 15-minute “delay,” which meant we had actually missed something close to 15 minutes of the film. I would like to think the snag had something to do with this incredible development but in all likelihood it was probably the result of AMC employees not doing their job. We will never know!
Recommendation: Fans of Woody Harrelson are in for a treat. Since the film was a one-time live-event hosted by Fathom Events I’m unsure how to point those fans who didn’t get the opportunity to check it out when it debuted in the right direction, but I’m sure someone has bootlegged the thing and put it on YouTube.
Running Time: 100 mins.
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