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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Lethal Projection BY EMILY RAPP SEITZ The Life of David Gale Directed by Alan Parker ,, f I did a political diatribe, nobody would listen to me,” director Alan Parker recently said during an interview with Charlie Rose. “It is important to find a wide audi ence.” Unfortunately, in his search for a wide audience in megaplexes across the nation, Parker ended up with a strange mess of a movie. Marketed as a “thriller” and a “fantastic human drama,” The Life of David Gale is neither. Instead, it’s an often offensive political satire on the death penalty in Texas, a subject that deserves a far better and much more intelligent dramatic treatment. In the film, David Gale \(Kevin at the fictional University of Austin, is awaiting his execution on death row after being convicted of the murder of university colleague and fellow death penalty abolitionist. When Gale’s appeal is rejected, his lawyer \(“a good old boy News magazine reporter Bitsey Bloom \(Kate half a million dollars, Bloom is allowed to interview Gale on each of the three days prior to his execution. \(In an ironic reference to the mega-hit Titanic, Winslet’s best-known American role, her first lines in this movie are “Gale’s Bloom and her intern \(Gabriel ly world of the Texas hinterland, depicted here as the end of the earth. Driving through Huntsville, Bloom observes that “you know you’re in the Bible Belt when there are more churches than Starbucks.” Uncivilized indeed. It’s not just the dearth of espresso joints deep in the heart of Texas; there are restaurants with plastic menus, BBQ shacks every few blocks, a whole lot of prisons, and to top it off, the cell phones won’t work and the only motels for miles feature blinking neon signs and nasty towels. Welcome to the Lone Star State, New Yorkers! Bloom’s rental car breaks down at a dark rest area, at which point an appears in his ratty old truck, and idles next to the out of towners. He doesn’t even say “howdy” or “where y’all from,” he just revs his engine and plays loud opera music from the truck’s stereo refers to this silent, ominous figure played by Matt Craven as, not surprisingly, “Cowboy.” \(“Where are you, bit put-off by Cowboy, but is more concerned with the “check engine” light that keeps coming on in the rental car. Known as “Mike Wallace with PMS,” she is humorless and condescending, which we’re supposed to understand as indicative of her commitment to journalistic “objectivity.” Winslet plays Bloom as an overwrought cliche “there is no truth, only perspectives?’ Since Bloom is so tough and unbreakher character to go. We know that only something truly shocking and dramatic will finally move her. Not surprisingly, it is Gale’s “difficult” story that breaks through the tough-girl facade. Separated by a pane of glass, Gale tells his story. As he begins, we hear some heavy-duty drum music \(performed by the son of director Alan on y’all, we’re going back in time.Words appear like graffiti and occasionally flash across Spacey’s face: power, condemnation, guilty, innocent, murder. Apparently these are some of the issues that Parker wants us to think about, but the overall effect is that of an episode of Wayne’s World. Gale says that he desperately wants “to be remembered as much for how I led my life and the decisions I made as for how my life ended?’ An interesting concept, for Gale himself is a complicated fellow. A sort of anti-hero, he is a highly intelligent man \(top of his class who lectures his students about how to live with integrity, but can’t get his own act together. During the first flashback, we watch him tuck his son into bed and then skulk off to a hipster party where he gets hopelessly drunk, engages in some poolside philosophical sparring with his buddies from the university, and finds himself in a dangerous liaison with a graduate student. When he’s finally booted out of the university on a false rape accusation, his wife takes off and Gale spirals into debilitating alcoholism. He stumbles down Sixth Street in a soiled Harvard sweatshirt and obsessively phones Italy, where she has absconded with their young son. He’s “weak,” as his friend and colleague Constance Harraway astutely points out when he shows up hungover for a televised debate with the governor on behalf of DeathWatch, the nonprofit death penalty abolitionist group that Harraway directs. It is through his friendship with the steadfast and loyal Constance that Gale finally begins to understand the fine theories he espouses in the classroom. The relationship between these two characters is one of the few things in the film that worksat least partially. Wearing frumpy dresses, cardigans, and no make-up, Linney embodies a woman who has dedicated her life to a