Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, April 6, 2001

Michael Parducci and Judy Prescott share a moment
in the complex but enjoyable "Hit and Runway."

Go with the flow
and you will enjoy this
unpretentious film


By John Berger

ALEX ANDERO is an earnest, working-class Italian guy with big dreams of becoming a Hollywood screenwriter. Too bad he can't write. Alex's big-shot uncle is a film industry insider, but Alex's script is little more than a few scribbled ideas, and he needs to show his uncle something brilliant almost immediately.

Luck leads Alex to Elliot Springer -- a witty but unsuccessful playwright who happens to be insecure, Jewish and gay. Alex, who is "100 percent grade-A straight" isn't comfortable about having a gay man as a writing partner, but time is short and he needs help badly. Will Elliot help him tie his ideas together into a commercial screenplay?

Elliot would rather starve than sell out by working on a generic action-film project. However, if he works with Alex, he'll be able to stay in close proximity to the hunky young actor who works as a waiter at the Andero family restaurant. Deal!

The basic premise is familiar, but "Hit and Runway" offers refreshing alternative visions. What seems at first to be basic sitcom-style "wunza" stuff (as is "one's a straight Italian, one's a gay Jew") develops into a delightful and surprisingly intelligent film about self-discovery, friendship, respect and artistic integrity.

At times broadly satirical, at times deliciously subtle, "Hit and Runway" plays well on many levels. One reason it does is director Christopher Livingston's success at maintaining a fine balance between realism and comic fantasy. Another is the give and take between Michael Parducci (Alex) and Peter Jacobson (Elliot).

Alex's growth is one of the key elements in the story. Parducci makes it all look believable. Jacobson's solid portrayal of Elliot provides the foundation for many of the lighter scenes, but Jacobson also brings an effective comic presence to the story.

Judy Prescott contributes a touching performance as the intelligent and quietly attractive woman Alex initially overlooks in his screen-writing class because she wears glasses. Kerr Smith is right on the money as the actor/waiter who confides to Elliot that he finds Jewish men sexy. John Fiore is essential in another of the subplots as the older brother who expects Alex to put his dreams aside and commit to the family restaurant.

"Hit and Runway" also comes with strong satirical themes and some insider jokes about Hollywood celebrities. Bill Cohen and J.K. Simmons provide the one-two punch in scenes involving Hollywood power brokers, and Hoyt Richards is hilarious as action-film superstar Jagger Stevens.

(Stevens is instantly recognizable as a caricature of Clint Eastwood, and the first scene we see of Alex's imaginary action film is a "Dirty Harry" parody.)

Some of the other bits are more obscure, but, yes, Steven Seagal is a more sensitive guy than the characters he portrays.

If "Hit and Runway" doesn't become a mainstream hit, it probably will be because it straddles several audiences. It isn't a savagely funny dissection of Hollywood aesthetics, a simple romantic comedy, a "gay film" or a warm and fuzzy story about getting in touch with who you are and what life is really about. All those things are in there and more as well. That may make it too complicated for the general American film audience.

Be willing to go with the flow of the story that Livingston and his writing partner, Jaffe Cohen, have chosen to tell, and "Hit and Runway" is unpretentious and enjoyable.

"Hit and Runway" contains no explicit or suggested sexual situations and no graphic violence, but there is brief female nudity and a moderate amount of crude vocabulary. "Hit and Runway" is rated R but should be PG-13. I give it three stars.

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