The Gingerbread Man (film)
|The Gingerbread Man|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Altman|
|Produced by||Jeremy Tannenbaum|
|Screenplay by||Al Hayes|
|Based on||A manuscript
by John Grisham
Robert Downey, Jr.
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Editing by||Geraldine Peroni|
|Distributed by||PolyGram Filmed Entertainment|
|Running time||114 minutes|
|Box office||$1,534,569 (USA)|
The Gingerbread Man is a 1998 American legal thriller film directed by Robert Altman and based on a discarded John Grisham manuscript. The film stars Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davidtz, Robert Downey, Jr., Tom Berenger, Daryl Hannah, Famke Janssen, and Robert Duvall.
|This section requires expansion. (May 2013)|
Divorced lawyer Rick Magruder (Kenneth Branagh) stumbles drunk out of a party hosted by his firm and has a chance meeting with a woman named Mallory Doss (Embeth Davidtz), a waitress at the party who seems to have lost her car. Rick drives the woman to her home, where her car has been already parked, seemingly by her father, Dixon Doss (Robert Duvall).
Rick and Mallory walk into the house arguing. Mallory carelessly undresses in front of him, after which they spend the night together.
Later in the day, Mallory asks him to file suit against her father because of his dangerous behavior. Now obsessed with Mallory and willing to do anything for her, Rick is successful in having Dixon put on trial and sent to a mental institution. But when he is freed, Rick must protect himself and his children from the danger he has brought into his life.
- Kenneth Branagh as Rick Magruder
- Embeth Davidtz as Mallory Doss
- Robert Downey, Jr. as Clyde Pell
- Tom Berenger as Pete Randle
- Daryl Hannah as Lois Harlan
- Robert Duvall as Dixon Doss
- Famke Janssen as Leeanne Magruder
- Jesse James as Jeff Magruder
- Mae Whitman as Libby Magruder
The film was based on an original story by John Grisham that was subsequently adapted into screenplay form. Kenneth Branagh liked the story and agreed to do the film but only if a highly regarded director signed on as well. Robert Altman wanted to work with the British actor but only, as he told him, "If we can fool the audience by not making you the hero, by making you flawed."
Once Altman came on board, he heavily re-worked the script, giving credit to the pseudonymous Al Hayes.
Altman said in an interview, "I just wanted to change the elements of these kinds of stories as much as I could and then I wanted to stay out of the courtroom." Altman changed the setting to Savannah, Georgia, and added the threat of a hurricane throughout the movie.
For the look of the film, Altman was inspired by The Night of the Hunter.
In August 1997, after an audience test screening reportedly went badly, Polygram Films brought someone else in to re-edit the movie without informing Altman and claimed that his version, "lacked tension and suffered from an inappropriate music score." At one point, the publicized squabble between the studio and the filmmaker got so bad that he wanted his name taken off the film. According to Branagh, the film previewed well but not up to the expectations of the studio. He said in an interview, "There's this enormous pressure to wrap everything up neatly and to resist things that stray from formula. Anything that suggests complexity in a character makes them unsympathetic in the eyes of the some people, and they see that as a great crime." Polygram backed down when their version tested worse than Altman's in a preview. The studio was upset that Altman had completely rewritten Grisham's script so that it was more critical about lawyers.
Years later, Ray Pride interviewed Altman about the post-production debacle and he replied, "Well, it's criminal, their treatment of that film. There was a vindictive order from the guy who was running (Polygram Films), he was so pissed off with me, he literally told them, 'I want that movie killed.' We're talking to lawyers, but it's almost impossible to win a lawsuit. You can't prove what a film could have done. They were just pissed off because it didn't test the way they wanted it to with the teenagers, y'know, in those malls."
In his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle wrote, "If it weren't for Altman's touches, The Gingerbread Man would be a mediocre thriller. Even with them, it can't be more than a top-notch genre film, but top-notch is top-notch." Jay Carr of the Boston Globe said that the film "is fun junk...We're talking claptrap here, but it's more enjoyable than it has any business being, thanks to director Robert Altman and star Kenneth Branagh." In his review for The Independent, Boyd Tonkin wrote, "It does not sprawl or wander as the Altman of old would have. Neither does it ever really catch alight. This is a waterlogged venture in more ways than one." Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the film two thumbs up, citing "brilliant filmmaking." The film currently holds a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 40 reviews.
- Chollet, Laurence (January 22, 1998). "Forget the Author - This is an Auteur". The Record.
- Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (January 30, 1998). "Tough Cookie". Entertainment Weekly.
- Clarke, Roger (August 1, 1998). "A Right Dust-Up in Tinseltown". Financial Times.
- Portman, Jamie (April 9, 1998). "Working with Altman Sweet Treat for Branagh". Calgary Herald.
- Pride, Ray (November 22, 2006). "Robert Altman: putting my gloves in a shoe box". Movie City Indie. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
- LaSalle, Mick (March 6, 1998). "Altman's Sure Touch is Gingerbreads Best Thrill". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Carr, Jay (March 6, 1998). "Gingerbread Man has the Altman Taste". Boston Globe.
- Tonkin, Boyd (July 23, 1998). "The Big Picture: Shiftless in Savannah". The Independent.
- The Gingerbread Man at The Internet Movie Database
- The Gingerbread Man at allmovie
- The Gingerbread Man at Box Office Mojo
- The Gingerbread Man at Rotten Tomatoes