Johns

on January 31, 1997 by Susan Lambert
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The first ten minutes of this Hollywood story are as striking and brilliant as the sharp rays of the sun on a warm winter day in Los Angeles. The film's first half sustains the tone--bold and funny, quirky and sad. But in its last act (which can be seen coming the proverbial mile away), 3johns2 slouches toward an obvious, trite and unaffecting ending that completely undercuts the great performances, smart score (by blues pianist Charles Brown and Danny Caron) and honest direction which preceded it.
   Male prostitute John (David Arquette) has his lucky sneakers stolen off his feet as he sleeps, along with the $300 he kept hidden in them. He had big plans for that money. For not only is the next day Christmas, but it's also John's 21st birthday and he has one birthday wish: to spend the night in the five-star, glamorous Park Plaza Hotel. He enlists the aid of his less streetwise, younger friend Donner (Lukas Haas) for help making up the money. The day descends into a series of frustrating 3dates,2 taunting visits to the lovely Plaza lobby, and run-ins with a local drug dealer (from whom John stole the original $300). What results is a stylized reality that successfully captures the tyranny, trauma and tone of life on the streets, where friendship is measured moment to moment and dignity is a rare and precious commodity.
   Except for a few occasions of artistic license (female and male prostitutes rarely mix on the streets of Los Angeles) and an unfortunate ending, writer-director Scott Silver has crafted his film with a delicate balance of comedy and tragedy and presented heavy subjects with a welcome, light touch. The performances are stark and sure. As John, Arquette gives a terrifically affecting performance--charming and selfish, sexy and childish, full of tics and nuance--the perfect hustler. He is heartbreaking, particuarly in the film's best scenes, when the Plaza's concierge (Arliss Howard) trys to help him salvage his dignity.
   Lukas Haas' sorrowful doe eyes serve him well as the delicate, loving Donner. Elliot Gould's brief but brilliant appearance as a closeted producer is right on the money, as is Howard's conceirge. Starring Lukas Haas and David Arquette. Written and Directed by Scott Silver. Produced by Beau Flynn and Stefan Simchowitz. A First Look release. Drama. Running time: 99 minutes. Screened at Sundance
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