R.S.V.P. (2002) / Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for pervasive drug use, violence, sexual situations and strong language
Running time: 98 min.
Cast: Rick Otto, Brandi Andres. Glenn Quinn, Jason Mewes, Lucas Babin, Daniel Joseph, Majandra Delfino, Jeanne Chinn, Grace Zabriskie, Jonathan Banks
Director: Mark Anthony Galluzzo
Screenplay: Mark Anthony Galluzzo
If there is a dead body at the heart of this film, it's Alfred Hitchcock's, and it's spinning more than the spyros at the beginning of Vertigo. R.S.V.P. is an homage to Hitch's classic experimental film, Rope, which itself was based on a play loosely based upon the Leopold and Loeb murder case. Sadly, like many other films that pay tribute to the Master, the tendency is to try to make it as conventional as possible, replacing quality actors for youth, and injecting sex, drugs, and rock and roll. As a result, much of the magic of the original film is gone, leaving a mechanical plot, thinly defined characters, and nowhere else to go except the lowest, most titillating ways for everyone to meet their maker.
The film's main impetus for mayhem stems from the mind of a young professor, Hal Evans, who is obsessed with serial killers and the infamous legacies they leave behind. It seems one of his students has an impressionable mind, Nick, who takes the time to bone up on murderer's history, leading him to try to re-enact the Leopold and Loeb deed, whereby they murder a friend, put his body in a large chest, then serve dinner to the man's friends and relatives literally over his dead body. However, Nick has more murders in mind, in fact, he's going to up the ante by actually killing everyone at his party.
There was a moment early on in R.S.V.P. where I knew that it was going to be a piss-poor film, where Nick checks out a serial killer web site and they actually spell Loeb's name as "Lobe". I've seen plenty of typos and misspellings in movies before, but this one is so central to the fiber of the film, I can only conclude that there's one thing writer/director Galluzzo cares little about, that's attention to detail. Then there's a scene where Nick pulls out what is clearly a rifle, but a few seconds later it turns out to be a very large bong, putting the audience in the situation of having to overlook some flagrant directorial cheats by Galluzzo, who probably hoped no one noticed or cared. Then a few scenes later, a Jason Mewes (aka Jay from Kevin Smith's films) stumbles on an ad-libbed line about spanking it to copulating sea urchins, then flubs another, more scripted line about drugs, which I suppose is understandable with him having to sober up while on probation during the making of this film.
At first I was angry seeing such overt sloppiness, but later came to love these moments, as spotting obvious mistakes in almost every scene by the director and cast became the sole source of enjoyment for the remainder of the film. I giggled with delight as Hal tears up some paper and tosses the scraps on the chest, only to see them disappear, then see him doing it some more, and they are gone in the next frame again. I loved the scene where they are running though the names of famous serial killers, hearing names come up more than once, such as naming Richard Ramirez at the beginning of the list, then the Night Stalker near the end. This film is truly a film flub lover's treasure trove.
Not that the film would have been any better without any errors, but it's a clear case of a director/producer/writer who underestimates his audience, probably figuring no one else gives a crap, as long as they get to see a bunch of young, attractive men and women hitting on each other, smoking joints or a bong, getting hammered, or engaging in a game of Twister. It occurs to me that this movie isn't about murder, it's about hedonism, and showing as many acts as possible. Even the act of taking another life is just part of the selfish fun, leading to a perfect ending, where the party doesn't stop even though almost everyone in the circle of friends is dead.
R.S.V.P. is most infuriating because you can sense that underneath all of the garbage, that Galluzzo is an intelligent and talented guy. This only makes the tendency to lose his ambition to make a great film that much more annoying, and if the liberal amount of pot and booze that is passed around throughout the movie isn't the real thing, I would actually be surprised. Watch Rope if you're interested in seeing this done the proper way, or if you need to see a modern telling, try the Sandra Bullock flick, Murder by Numbers, which wasn't really a good film, but at least tried to have some integrity in its delivery. I might be accused of being a party pooper, but this is one R.S.V.P. I have no intention of responding favorably to.
© 2003 Vince Leo