I recently went on a buying frenzy of cheap (under $15 a piece) DVD movies from Amazon to help fill out my Goldblum collection. I haven't had a lot of time to sit down and have the Jeff-a-thon I'd been hoping to with them, but I did manage to watch Beyond Suspicion the other night.
First I just have to say that the movie should have stuck with it's original title, Auggie Rose. The title, "Beyond Suspicion" conjures up images of murder, criminals, and the justice system. And while this movie has those elements in it, it is ultimately a very interesting character study and deep exploration of what it means to choose one path for the rest of your life. I put the film in expecting another one of those kind of mediocre murder mystery thrillers that seemed to come out in spades the 90s. I'd actually never even heard of the movie before I saw it for sale on Amazon. And while I was excited to watch just because I am such a total fangirl for Jeff, I have to say I was completely and totally surprised, in a pleasant way, to be watching him in a role like this one.
The premise of the movie is that a well-to-do insurance salesman, John Nolan, witnesses an armed robbery while purchasing a bottle of expensive vintage wine one evening on his way home. The store clerk, Auggie Rose, is shot right in front of him. After the gunman flees, he cradles Auggie in his arms trying to stem the flow of blood while they wait for help to arrive. Unfortunately in the ambulance, Auggie expires, his last words ("It's going to be okay, John.") echoing in Nolan's mind.
Like any normal, empathetic person, John is clearly shaken by the entire ordeal. He contemplates, through flashbacks, how the drama could have played out had different choices been made during the wine-purchase. What if the gunman had shot him while he lay prone on the ground? What if he'd never asked for a different bottle of wine, with an intact label? Who was Auggie Rose and when would his funeral be planned? His questions lead him on a search for information about Auggie's past and ultimately he discovers that Auggie is an ex-convict, just released from prison only a few weeks before, with no kin or any friends to speak of. The idea that his body will simply be "disposed of", with no funeral and no one to care, upsets John enormously. He then goes on a quest to find out all he can about Auggie ostensibly to honour his memory, and acknowledge that he was a human being just like anyone, deserving of dignity and respect. John however - in the wake of witnessing the murder - is beginning to also have a bit of an identity crisis of his own. He is feeling pressure to marry his live-in girlfriend of six years; he finds his own career dishonest and distasteful, saying he "bamboozles" people. All of these things add up to a very confused man, who begins to (almost accidentally) slip into Auggie Rose's life.
I don't want to give too much of the plot away but I do just want to say that I am so pleased that I stumbled upon this little gem of a movie. It, more than any other movie I've seen Jeff in to date, really showcases his acting talent. He is convincing as both John C. Nolan and as the nouveau Auggie Rose, even when he is clearly uncertain of his own motivations, perplexed by how easy it was to adopt a new identity and new, unfamilliar life. The only negative thing I can say about the movie is that I feel they kind of unneccessarily dragged the crime element into it. Certainly the fact that Auggie was an ex-con, fresh out of 20 years in the state pen, meant there would be some shady business going on. But I felt that the whole story line with the thief trying to convince John/Auggie to go in on a bank heist with him and the way it sort of forced John's hand regarding the identify theft, was kind of thrown in to appease the "Hollywood masses", who don't feel any movie is complete without some kind of gun-toting violent caper action. I think that this movie could have been just as successful, and better-maintained it's artistic credibility, had they just left John to figure out his new life and how to be honest about it with his new love, on his own. No car chases, no cops and robbers, no guns. Auggie, prior to his death, seemed to be trying very hard to build an authentic and honest life, as simple and underprivileged as it may have been. I think that throwing in the bit about the bank heist was probably the same kind of thing as changing the title of the film from "Auggie Rose" to "Beyond Suspicion" - a way to try and mainstream a movie that was probably best left to burble quietly and independantly along a backwoods creek instead.
If you never seen (or like me even heard of) this movie I strongly suggest you seek it out. Even if the plot line doesn't sound interesting to you, the scene where Lucy (Ann Heche) is bathing John/Auggie is well worth the price of admission. *wink wink* Also, I prefer the alternate ending to the one they chose, but that is probably the cynic in me. You make the call for yourself.
I also strongly suspect that this film is much better than Transylvania 6-5000, which I also purchased for less than $10 but to be fair I'll reserve judgement on that until I've actually watched it. Ha.