Reviews  The Life of David Gale

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SPOILERS*

The Life of David Gale by MazzaMuscat

I think I have to say that this is by far my fav film, which focus’s on life for me. Its clever and well done, with aload of twists and turns. It was a great for me to see my fav actor Kevin Spacey and actress Kate Winslet interacting with each other. You can feel how bitsey feels when she tries to prove his innocence. This film made me feel the emotions of watchin National Anthems when he was crying for his life, at the end touched me. ‘Maybe death is a gift, but what do we all know about death, Just that no one comes back. I cryed my eyes out as that was it for him. From a university teacher to a alcoholic, it can really affect a person to what they used to be. Kevin Spacey did a good film there and if I had the chance to meet him I would certainly tell him that he played the character well, and it was heart felt for me. Thanx! ~

The Life of David Gale by Viola

It was a really good movie.  When I saw that movie, I really started to like Kevin Spacey… he’s so cute! *kiss*

The Life of David Gale by LA

Despite all the bad reviews this movie received, I had to see it because of Kevin Spacey.  Well sadly to say, it is one of Kevin’s weakest performance ever.  Part of the reason being the script, the cinematography, and the character of David Gale.  The movie has very low morale.  I can just hear Kevin saying, “My dear fans, I used to make what I thought were good movies that would be of interest and now I get a string of bad reviews.  Doesn’t that strike you as a little odd?”  I thought we could count on Spacey to turn in a remarkable performance.  But Kevin, didn’t they teach you at Juilliard that the best way to act like you’re drunk is to pretend that you’re NOT drunk?  However, despite the smarmy drunken scenes, Kevin manages to do the best he can.  Why wouldn’t he?  The movie itself is creepy in a bad way.  I mean, we don’t need to see the scene over and over again.  Part of the other reason this movie got bad reviews was because of that ol’ Pay It Forward; it was like Kevin taking Arlene’s role, as an alcoholic, that is.  Kevin didn’t move me much at all in this film, which is surprising.  The background music doesn’t contribute much either, this pulsating sound that echoes throughout your mind just makes you feel like you’re watching that Regis show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  And I think that’s exactly what Spacey did: he just took the money and left.  I hope he redeems himself in BTS.  He needs it.  But for all Spaceyfans, watch the movie for Spacey and for Spacey only.  We tend to see movies and analyze why he was so good, but for this one (I hope only one) time, watch it to see how unconvincing he is.

David Gale fan review by Paul

kevin was at his best as usual ~

The Life of David Gale The Telegraph, Arts section September 13, 2003 DVD review

A warning to the unwary:  the names Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet grace the cover, as do various critical endorsements of murky origin and worrying inapplicability – “thrilling”; “spellbinding”; “magnificent”; “nail-biting”.  But The life of David Gale is none of these things. It’s quite the worst major studio release of the year, and the DVD would be better employed as a frisbee.

“I used to be the state’s leading death penalty abolitionist and now I’m on death row.  Doesn’t that strike you as a little ardd?”  Spacey is in full smarmy “what’s my secret?” screen-hogging mode as Gale, awaiting lethal injection for the rape and murder of a university colleague (Laura Linney).  At his behest, in steps Winslet’s journeyman reporter Bitsey Bloom to figure our What Really Happened with just days to go.  This being an Alan Parker polemic, her discoveries involve a pounding barrage of tendentious plot twists and a great deal of smug liberal back-slapping for all involved.  It’s frighteningly irresponsible, ethically indecipherable, appallingly over-directed, crass, tacky, cynical and pretentious hogwash. Life’s too short; Life, at a running time of 130 minutes, most certainly is not.

Tim Robey

The Life of David Gale Fan review by missylove

excellent film spacey is a very unbelievably great actor. enjoyed it to the fullest

The Life of David Gale DVD review by Sumeet Bal for Entertainment Weekly

Spacey is promising as an alcoholic philosophy professor who gets the death penalty for allegedly raping and murdering his close friend (Laura Linney), an anti-capital punishment activist. But director Alan Parker kills what could have been a great whodunit with heavy-handed political rhetoric and misuse of a talented all-star cast. Despite his Oscar-gilded abilities, Spacey ultimately fools no one as a sought-after campus hunk, Linney is under-used, and Kate Winslet – as the reporter unearthing the truth – is a crying bore. Still, it’s the cheap twist ending that really does Gale in.

Extras Skip ’em: Does anyone really need to hear a play-by-play commentary that explains weather conditions and music, but offers little insight into that awful ending?

C ~ Sumeet Bal

Entertainment Weekly, Issue #720 July 25, 2003

THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE Reviewed By: Paul Le Petit From: The Sunday Telegraph -Sydney, Australia Published: May 25th, 2003 Rated: 4 out of 5 Stars

Director Alan Parker once confided to me the secret of making Hollywood films so that Hollywood executives would not interfere: make them in small rundown dumps, in dingy Dublin suburbs or in the swamps of southern America states. “The executives will go to Paris, Rome and London but they won’t go anywhere near a slum”, he said. And a Hollywood executive has not been anywhere near the set of Parker’s latest film, The Life Of David Gale. It’s set in Texas, the state where it seems to be almost compulsory to execute as many prisoners a week as they can to keep their records tidy. And this is the story of Gale (Kevin Spacey) once a university professor and a fervent opponent of the death penalty, now on death row himself in one of the more alarming twists of human nature.  Gale has been charged and convicted of the rape and murder of a colleague (Laura Linney) and now he waits for the final moment, and just before that, for an interview with journalist Bitsy Bloom (Kate Winslett). It’s another part of the conundrum that makes up the plot of this film, much of which is delivered in flashback. And there are still doubts as to Gale’s motives: is he telling his story to prove his innocence, to tell his son that he is a caring father at heart or is he making a final curious point about the death penalty. Parker does not let things settle there. He adds some red herrings, some red-neck herrings in fact; throws a little mystery or two as if the main plot were not enough; but in the end he fashions a powerful film that cleverly poses questions and refuses to answer them. While Kevin Spacey is adept at winning both hearts and minds (and he does so with added intrigue here), and Laura Linney is a powerful screen presence, sadly I felt uncomfortable with Kate Winslett… even given the awful soubriquet she has to work under. Winslett did not entirely convince and for a film with convictions, this is a near mortal sin. ~

The Life of David Gale fan review by Susan and Irene

We saw the “Life of David Gale”, we loved this movie, a little sad, but we enjoyed it very much, and we wonder if the movie critics saw the same movie we did.  Mr. Spacey is a good actor, and we add, SEXY!!!!! May 5, 2003

The Life of David Gale fan review by leonor

well, it’s not my favorite ks movie but i still enjoyed it. so what if you can guess the ending; there are many british mysteries that i guess the ending to i still like the way the story unfolds. i think there’s alot of snobbery lurking here. also i think people hold kevin’s work to a higher standard. personally, i could enjoy watching him read from a phone book. lighten up! March 5, 2003 ~

Daily Trojan  What happened to Kevin Spacey? by Betty Buckalew

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but one thing that we all feared would eventually happen has now become a harsh reality: we have officially lost Kevin Spacey.

As one of the quirkiest and most fascinating character actors of the ’90s, Spacey had a staggering run of great performances. He won two Academy Awards: a Best Supporting Actor trophy for playing the physically handicapped snitch Verbal Kint in “The Usual Suspects” (the kind of turn that demands repeat viewings to sort out its sneaky nuances), and a lead-actor Oscar for the role of Lester Burnham, a burnt-out suburban family man who suddenly awakens to life’s possibilities in “American Beauty.”

Other highlights, including his work as a spotlight-hogging police detective who grows a conscience in “L.A. Confidential,” a scarily serene serial killer in “Seven,” and an abusive, ruthless Hollywood player in “Swimming with Sharks,” were similarly award-worthy, yet went unrecognized.

When remembering this Spacey Golden Age, it becomes even more difficult to discern what went so horribly wrong after his “American Beauty” Oscar win in 1999. His first post-“Beauty” offense was starring in the mawkish, simplistic “Pay It Forward,” an afterschool special that somehow made it to the big screen. Spacey’s sympathetic performance as a grade-school teacher harboring a dark secret was the best thing in the movie, to the extent that the viewer couldn’t help but feel an urge to yank him off the screen, violently shake him and tell him to select a better script next time.

The sad thing is, he ended up choosing a worse one, and “K-PAX” also bears the tragic distinction of being the first film to feature a thoroughly wretched performance from Spacey.

As the preciously named Prot, a mental patient who is convinced he is an extraterrestrial and who proceeds to teach us all an important lesson about how to be better human beings (I could barely hold back the bile just typing that plot summary), Spacey gives in to numerous irritatingly actorish indulgences. He tilts his head to the side and speaks in a benevolent monotone, endlessly toys with various props that add nothing to the character (he eats a banana with the peel on — ha ha, what a silly alien), and the less said about the overacted regression-therapy scenes, the better.

After those two artistic bombs, Spacey achieved what almost resembled a minor comeback, with his solid work as a passive, pathetic journalist in the engagingly low-key “The Shipping News,” but now that we know this is the third gooey-eyed saint the actor would play in a series of four such characterizations, the performance is situated in a larger, unflattering context. Hindsight can be tough. And hindsight is exactly what is prompted by the current release, “The Life of David Gale,” in which Spacey gives an insufferably vain, pompous star turn, the most unwatchable performance by an Academy Award winner since Robin Williams’ notoriously sappy portrayal of the titular character in “Patch Adams.”

At least the previous three angelic figures depicted by Spacey had a moral consistency to them. But with “Gale,” neither Spacey nor director Alan Parker seem to have any idea that the character of Gale — an arrogant, self-centered death-row activist whose checkered past includes bouts of alcoholism and adultery (and a good amount of incriminating evidence that indicts him for a murder he may not have committed) — is a hideously unsympathetic sleazebag.

When Gale, who has three days until he is to be executed by the state of Texas, meets with the reporter (Kate Winslet) intending to clear his name, Spacey plays him with a mannered Zen calm and gentle, beatific gaze that suggests this man is a pure innocent in more than just the legal sense of the word. And yet, when taking into account what we know about Gale and how he treats other people (at one point, he even has rough extra-marital sex with a young student), all the Christ-figure posturing becomes simultaneously laughable and offensive.

For many of the flashback scenes, which feature most of Gale’s slimy behavior, Spacey lets his love of presentational theatrical gestures infuse the character with a, dare I say it, Shatneresque self-importance. When watching Spacey-as-Gale flamboyantly recite dirty limericks at a college party and spend what feels like 10 minutes drunkenly rambling about Greek history on a crowded street corner, it’s as if all character concerns have vanished, and what we’re left with is the overbearing grandstanding of a once-great actor.

“The Life of David Gale” would be a work of epic awfulness with or without Spacey; in addition to being clumsily written and appallingly sadistic (if I had a dime for every time Parker gratuitously shows the videotape that graphically recorded the murder Gale was accused of, I don’t know if I’d have a dollar, but I’d be very close), it’s an ostensibly anti-death-penalty message movie that ends up holding such obvious contempt towards left-wing political activism that it might as well have been funded by the Bush campaign. But with Spacey, it becomes heartbreaking.

Perhaps some talented actors just should never have been given an Oscar, which could easily be interpreted as a free pass to let one’s ego run rampant. Other performers who have gone to the dark side after winning the golden guy include Williams (who is, luckily, starting to return to sanity with deliciously insane roles in “Insomnia” and “One Hour Photo”), “Jerry Maguire” champ Cuba Gooding, Jr. (“Chill Factor,” anyone?), and “Amadeus” winner F. Murray Abraham. In fact, I remember hearing a rumor that Abraham was forced to do a Fruit of the Loom commercial at one point in his post-Oscar career. I predict a future where, sad as it is, Spacey will be lucky to get work in TV advertisements.

“My guess is you’ll never hear from him again,” Spacey’s Verbal once said to Agent Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) about the mysterious Keyzer Soze, but now, the quote might as well apply to the actor playing him.

February 28, 2003

The Washington Post  The Family Filmgoer by Jane Horwitz

THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE (R, 130 minutes) Major plot SPOILER

High schoolers 16 and older who have an interest in current events and issues such as the death penalty may find “The Life of David Gale” absorbing enough. It’s certainly well acted by a fine cast. But more seasoned cinema buffs may fault the film’s self-important tone, Alan Parker’s lugubrious direction and Charles Randolph’s script, which is more sermon than story. Inappropriate for younger teens, the movie contains explicit sexual situations, nonsexual nudity, an upsetting death-by-suffocation scene, a suicide theme, profanity and drinking.

Kevin Spacey plays the title character, a former professor at the University of Texas and anti-death penalty activist now on death row for the rape and murder of a colleague and fellow activist (Laura Linney). Kate Winslet plays a famous magazine reporter who interviews him during his final week of life. Of course, she becomes fascinated by his story (told in a series of flashbacks) and convinced of the flawed but brilliant man’s innocence. But that’s too simple. The film plays baldly contrived tricks during its finale, designed not to wind up a good yarn, but to make a point. When a movie that purports to examine the death penalty shows only toothless bumpkin characters speaking in favor of it and educated, saintly types speaking against it, that movie isn’t playing fair. Even the choir it’s preaching to might balk.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Politics of Death Detract form “Life” By Desson Howe Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, February 21, 2003; Page WE34

The political agenda in “The Life of David Gale” is so embarrassingly unadorned, you’ll swear you just got flashed.

An anti-death penalty screed disguised as a thriller, the story follows philosophy professor David Gale (Kevin Spacey), who’s about to be executed in the bad ol’ state of Texas for rape and murder.

David happens to be an activist for a nonprofit group that lobbies heavily against the death penalty. And the victim is Constance (Laura Linney), David’s fellow worker. What goes on here? David has maintained his innocence from the get-go, but he lost the case thanks to an incompetent lawyer. Now he’s due for his lethal dose Friday.

With time running out, he offers a series of three exclusive one-on-one interviews with investigative reporter Elizabeth “Bitsey” Bloom (Kate Winslet). She’s his last chance to prove his innocence.

Bitsey’s employers decide she should not attend these interviews alone. There should be a young man, like office intern Zack (Gabriel Mann), the kind of guy who’ll bring younger audiences to this movie.

Protesting all the way, Bitsey drags Zack along. And they show up for the interview with the savvy, sophisticated, apparent killer. It’s going to be one of those mental games of chess, she with the notebook and convinced he’s guilty, he on the other side of the window, sizing up his prey. You keep waiting for him to say: Hello, Clarice.

But this ain’t “Silence of the Lambs.” It’s just muttonhead entertainment from director Alan Parker and screenwriter Charles Randolph, for whom heavy-handedness amounts to telling argument.

David is supposed to seem like a checkered character, so Randolph gives him a drinking problem (first choice among all scriptwriters, it seems), marital trouble and a scene in which David is conned by an ex-student into a heavy-breathing quickie, only to see her turn around and falsely accuse him of rape. Later, the jury will see this incident as a precursor of the subsequent rape and killing for which David is ultimately convicted.

It takes Spacey’s considerable talent to make his scenes even the slightest bit believable. But he can’t save us from the rest of the movie: A gung-ho death-penalty-loving governor, digs at Dubya, sanctimoniously witty comments about the Lone Star state’s prolific killing machine and Texans who constantly remind each other in daily conversation how right-wing, eccentric and gosh-darn southern they are. “David Gale” deserves the chair for its brutal assault on subtlety.

It’s more than disconcerting, too, that a movie that wants to enlighten everyone about the barbarity of execution feels no compunction providing lurid details of a trussed, raped and suffocated victim. The only difference between this film and snuff porn is a matter of dramatic emphasis.

This being a “closed” thriller, in which all secrets are hid till the last moment, I don’t want to reveal too much. But it doesn’t take a card hustler to recognize the ace-in-the-sleeve punch line way ahead of time. And when you do, sooner or later, chances are you’ll find yourself hating just about everybody except poor, clueless Bitsey.

THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE (R, 130 minutes) — Contains graphic sexuality, nudity, violence and obscenity. Area theaters.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

The Life of David Gale fan review by tiki

i saw the movie last night. they showed the death scene way too often. i left the movie very disturbed. All the way home I thought of how easy it was for anyone to be framed for just about anything. Kevin Spacey and his power. I was awake most of the night but it flipped my stance on the death penalty. The day before the movie I was for the death penalty. today i am against it. February 22, 2003

The Life of David Gale Fan review by Alex

Well, there is so much you can say about this movie!  A few friends and I went to go see it and I absolutely loved it. Kevin did a great job in this movie. Its a pretty suspenseful movie with a few twists and all. And not to mention, he looked DARN GOOD in this movie too!! 🙂 Go see this movie! Its great!

February 23, 2003

The Life of David Gale by Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times 

“Spacey and Parker are honorable men. Why did they go to Texas and make this silly movie? The last shot made me want to throw something at the screen–maybe Spacey and Parker.” Zero stars. SPOILERS!

**Fortunately the link no longer works.

The Life of David Gale by Susan Walker, The Toronto Star

“Spacey’s performance as Gale is sufficiently nuanced to make him a memorable, if not wholly noble, character.”

Three stars.

Pre-release reviews Premiere – March 2003 The Life of David Gale NO STARS

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 21 (UNIVERSAL)

I’m not sure what kind of movie Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, and Laura Linney thought they were making when they signed on to do The Life of David Gale, directed by Alan Parker from a script by Charles Randolph. But whatever they may have thought, what they ended up in is one of the most viciously cynical motion pictures I have ever seen. Only a recap of the film that completely gives away all of its plot points will allow me to dissect the movie’s cynicismin the way I’d like to, which would of course be unfair to readers who haven’t experienced the staggering thing that is The Life of David Gale. In the film, Kevin Spacey plays Gale, a Texas academic and anti-death penalty activist who is about to be put to death for the heinous rape and murder of a fellow anti-capital punishment champion (Linney ). After sitting silent on death row for years, he decides to tell his story to magazine reporter Winslet, who is dispatched to Texas with a smart-ass male intern (Gabriel Mann) in tow. Gale tells her his story, which unfolds in flashbacks that are introduced with showy montages in which hot -button words fill the screen.

Leaving aside the inaccuracies about the magazine world this movie advances (the extent to which Mann’s intern gets away with being such a snot strains credulity), this movie really shows its hand when Gale, in a television debate with a Bushlike Texas governor, chokes on a question that any real-life anti-death penalty activist would have a ready answer for. Movies take liberties with facts, and with history, all the time; but I’ve never seen a film do so as disingenuously as this one does (and yes, I am including Oliver Stone’s fantasy JFK, not to mention Parker’s own odious Mississippi Burning, here). By the time we get to the film’s twist, or should I say twisted, ending, Parker has made his contempt for his characters and his audience palpable. I didn’t learn anything about the director’s opinions on the death penalty from this film; it did confirm, however, that Parker probably has a distaste for human life in general. So that’s something.

January 20, 2003 – Fan Review by Merry
(Advanced screenings in Boston on January 16 and 17, 2003.)

I, personally, enjoyed the movie – both times.  I did guess the “twist” before it was revealed, but I still enjoyed watching how the movie played out.  Also, I didn’t think that the movie was a Hollywood “slap you across the face with an opinion” type of movie; it showed the lengths to which some people are willing to go in order to perpetuate their goals, but it didn’t do it in a manner that made you feel you had to agree with them in order to enjoy the movie.  And it doesn’t hurt that Kevin Spacey is absolutely adorable! 🙂

All photos property of the photographer.

January 10, 2003
The Life of David Gale

Q&A afterwards with Kevin Spacey and Laura Linney – The movie was atrocious – simply atrocious. Kate Winslet’s acting was awful – although it’s not really her fault because the dialogue she had to work with was horrendous – Alan Parker’s direction was mediocre and parts of the story was just cheesy. I mean basically, Alan Parker created an R rated version of a Scooby Doo mystery. “Oh my god, Raggy! Where’s the pickup truck? I don’t know Scoob, let me check it out! Rorry Shaggy!”

The one redeeming part of the movie though is the ending.

(SPOILER removed)

1 star out of 4 (the one star coming from the fact that it had a decent ending.)

The Q&A afterwards really didn’t have anything of note to report. Basically people just fawned over Kevin Spacey for a half hour or so and told him how great “David Gale” was. Apparently, those guys saw a different movie than I did.

Just call me NORDORMEER CHILL. ~

Full review – SPOILER WARNING!! End is partly revealed.

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