90s College Indulgence

Gossip (2000), directed by Davis Guggenheim, captures the hurtful and scandalous potential of school/college, by focusing on three room-mates who choose a class project on the nature of gossip and how fast it can become something quite different.

Gossip. Photo: Warner Bros
Gossip. Photo: Warner Bros

The movie begins with Lena Headey’s character Cathy Jones, swapping studying for drinks and cigarettes with her friends in a New York bar. The film instantaneously defines our three main characters – Jones takes the strong female role. Her two best friends are a young James Marsden as Derrick Webb and a very introverted and greasy haired Norman Reedus as Travis. The open-plan penthouse apartment they share belongs to Derrick, who we can assume has extremely rich parents. Their apartment is incredible, and I am dubbing it as one of my favourite fictional living spaces of all time (wow). This is however part of the reason that I would attribute the notion of style over substance to the content and direction of Gossip.

Without wanting to give too much of the plot away (to be fair, I was surprised by the outcome and didn’t see a few of twists that get thrown at you), the storyline does seem to escalate out of control. One of the largest strands to the plot remains the character of blonde bombshell Naomi Preston (a very nasal Kate Hudson) and her endless allegations of rape. This attempt to drive home a tale of morality in my opinion lacks somewhat, and seems to forget that although gossip can be damaging to reputation, I don’t think that someone’s dad pretending to investigate a rape and murder charge would go overlooked by the real authorities. Regardless of these absurdities and a rather contrived plot, the film manages to remain endearing and I was definitely entertained throughout.

There is almost an element of fantasy to the direction. In particular I really like the grimy but bright-light appeal of their city, the nightclub they visit and their open-plan apartment which provides you with an eye-full of 90’s crop-tops and shoulder padded jackets. The soundtrack is another gem, this quality seems to cross over with many films of this kind- Cruel Intentions (1999) is one, also similar in storyline, loaded with a blonde virginal female, the rich handsome male, in this case drugs not cigarettes and Joshua Jackson. To be clear, Gossip is shallow in comparison with Cruel Intentions, and I’m sure that the latter for many of us, will always remain a guilty pleasure.

To wrap this one up, I would definitely recommend it for an easy Sunday afternoon watch. Easy to grasp and with a cast of beautiful people, this all style over substance movie is sure to keep you entertained, just don’t expect it to spark debate or for any tale of morality to actually make it home. That’s ok though, as Davis Guggenheim as of around 2006 seems to have transformed himself into a documentary maker – one film that you might recognise is An Inconvenient Truth (2006). This almost eco-horror documents Al Gore’s passionate involvement with current and potential environmental disaster, utterly compelling and thoroughly educating throughout.

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