Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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That Guy Salute: The Barfly in Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 3, 2007

Paying tribute to those nameless and occasionally faceless supporting characters that nonetheless provide the broth for the rich stew of Pop Culture.

I caught Sex, lies and videotape on IFC a few nights ago. SL&V is one of my favorite movies to catch on TV because I know it well enough to remember the vague plot outline while always forgetting the specifics–so I almost always end up watching the whole thing to remember how the dots get connected. Plus, creepy-but-sympathetic Spader, eyebrow-heavy Peter Gallagher, hotter-than-everLaura San Giacombo, surprisingly bearable Andie McDowell, and of course, the best ever Steven Soderbergh script.

And also, there’s this guy. I always sorta assumed that he was Cameron Crowe–he looks like Cameron Crowe, right? Actually, though, it’s actor/producer/director/screenwriter Steven Brill, in his first ever role (after his debut in Adam Sandler flop vehicle Going Overboard). Apparently Sandler is a lifelong friend, and got him simlar gigs later in his life, including roles as “Glenn’s Buddy” in The Wedding Singer, Ted Castelucci in Big Daddy and “Violin Player” in Mr. Deeds (the latter of which he actually directed, along with Sandler’s ’00 disaster Little Nicky). If those ventures don’t seem too impressive, Brill also wrote and had in cameos in all three Mighty Ducks movies, officially making him an integral part of 90s pop culture. Other roles include “Gothamite 1” in Batman Returns, “Dishwasher Man” in Edward Scissorhands and “Cop at Crime Scene” in Joe Dirt.

Perhaps you can see the seeds of these somewhat failed comic ventures in his role as the barfly plaguing Cynthia Bishop in SL&V, continually making bad jokes and puny come-ons to anyone who’ll listen (who in this movie, is basically nobody). While the love triangle between Cynthia, John and Ann (or love square if you wanna count Graham) runs its course, this guy just keeps showing up, as if he was meant to offer Greek Chorus-type commentary on the action but instead just decided to quote Apocalypse Now and make drunken pick-up attempts (“OK, OK–you’re wearing blue, and I’m wearing blue. This is just too much!”).

All throughout Brill’s unimportant ramblings, none of the characters even really seem to acknowledge his existence. Cynthia smiles at him maybe once, and Ann, whose attempts to have heart-to-heart moments with her sister are constantly interrupted by his flirtation attempts, does her best to ignore him. Eventually, she asks him irritatedly, “do you live here?” It’s actually something of a worthwhile question.

Brill’s character is one of the things that makes this movie so imminently re-watchable–by no means an integral part of the movie, but one of the little things about it I’m always happy to be reminded of. I’d love to see Soderbergh make a spin-off movie with just this guy and San Giacombo–almost 20 years later, he’s probably still at that bar, quoting Fight Club to whoever’ll listen.

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