Crazy like Macy

By and

“Edmond”

First Independent Pictures

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Written by David Mamet, based on his play

Starring: William H. Macy, Julia Stiles, Rebecca Pidgeon, Bokeem Woodbine, Joe Mantegna and Lionel Mark Smith

Rated R/82 minutes

Opened Sept. 29, 2006

Two-and-a-half out of four stars

No one can turn profanity into profundity with greater ease than David Mamet. His latest scripted effort, “Edmond” (based on his own play), has as much of the former as you might expect, but the latter never really materializes. We can see what Mamet is getting at, but he’s painting in too broad of strokes.

Even with its failings, “Edmond” stands out from the crowd-but not necessarily above it. It occurs to me that the film may be best experienced with a clean slate, so if you don’t want to know much, stop reading now.

OK, then.

“Edmond” begins in a metaphorical prison and ends in a real one. The first is an anonymous skyscraper where Edmond (William H. Macy) spends his days wearing the same old suit and doing the same old job and going to the same old meetings every single day. As he puts it, he’s been wasting 47 years of his life stuck on autopilot.

The second prison, the real one, is a result of one wild night in which Edmond puts an end to his all-too-comfortable routine. He leaves his wife, trolls the seedy streets of New York City and proceeds to get taken advantage of by pimps, prostitutes, strippers and three-card Monte dealers. Mamet makes sure to emphasize the irony of a wealthy white businessman not being able to get what he wants while navigating a street world he couldn’t possibly understand.

Thematically speaking, the film fits in well with much of Mamet’s oeuvre, examining social, racial and relational patterns and the way we define ourselves in the greater scope of humanity.

Characters bandy about labels, generalizations and broad declarations-statements that mean nothing but which underscore their respective places in society. For instance, one guy, a fellow businessman played by Joe Mantegna, laments the sad, sorry plight of the white man, arguing that the black community “has it easy.”

Characters are frightened by the prospect of their chosen (or given) roles breaking down or being threatened in any way. Edmond, on the other hand, doesn’t give a damn. At least not anymore.

There is an interesting metamorphosis in his character. Early on, other people speak for him. When he tells his wife he’s leaving her, she does all the talking. When he goes to the bar and has a drink, the Mantegna character rambles on and on, while Edmond just nods and uh-huhs and says, “I agree with you.”

By the end, he’s screaming and shouting and philosophizing-and, at least in his mind, he’s enlightened.

Mamet is a stickler for rhythm-when he directs, he uses a metronome to keep the dialogue in proper step-which is what makes “Edmond” so curious. We get long-winded monologues that completely disrupt the flow of the story, and then there are sequences of dialogue that are perfectly structured-in which every word has a purpose and entire conversations roll off the actors’ tongues. In other words, vintage Mamet.

Consider one exchange between a police interrogator and a crime suspect:

“Why’d you kill that girl?”

“What girl?”

“That girl you killed.”

“Edmond,” directed by Stuart Gordon, is at the same time a disturbing character study and the darkest of dark comedies. It will not go down as one of Mamet’s best, but it’s certainly never boring.

“I knew I should have picked the middle card instead of pooping my pants.” William H. Macy looks sheepish in “Edmond.”