It is time I let you in on a little secret, Gossip wasn’t the movie I originally intended to review for this week. What I had wanted to review was a small film from the Czech Republic called Sílení (Lunacy). It was described as a mixture of live action and stop-motion animation that was based on the works of the Marquis de Sade but also borrows from several short stories by Edgar Allen Poe. I know, it sounds like all manner of awesome. But there were some … complications.

Now we lucked out and received the film from Netflix over a week ago, ensuring us plenty of time to screen the film and review it. Both Anna and I were looking forward to the film, and the DVD certainly had us intrigued, what with an image of a cow’s tongue inching along as if it was a worm for the cover art. Then, when the film opened with a disclaimer that the film would disgust and revile all those who watched it, our interests was definitely piqued. But something funny happened on the way to the film’s ending, it didn’t disgust us, it bored us.

Now I think I am pretty good at figuring out an individual film’s meaning, be they covert or overt, but Sílení simply left me scratching my head at its continual bizarre and inane flights of fancy. The film opens with what appears to be a fever dream of a man being terrorized by orderlies from an insane asylum, when in fact he is merely hallucinating. As a crowd gathers to watch, an elderly Marquis (Jan Triska) appears and shoos off the onlookers, much to the satisfaction of the young man.

The following morning the young man, Jean Berlot (Pavel Liska), approaches the Marquis at breakfast to thank him and the two quickly strike up a kinship. The Marquis offers to give Jean a ride to hi next destination and they quickly board the Marquis’ horse drawn carriage and head across the country side. It is about this time that I begin to notice that the Marquis is dressed in noticeably eclectic attire, and his stage coach and driver also appear as if they had been transported out of the 1700′s. I even began to question just when the film was set until I saw a car driving down the road past the coach, but that would end up being the last bit of normalcy I would witness.

Soon it begins to rain, quite terribly, submerging the earth under a deluge of puddles and mud, when the carriage suddenly stops and the Marquis informs Jean he can go no further. Jean departs and the Marquis slinks off into the forest, in order to play a game of hide-and-go-seek with the now sopping wet Jean who has no idea he is even playing a game. After a few seconds the carriage manages to sneak up on Jean (how that is possible I don’t know) and startles our intrepid, seemingly deaf, hero.

The Marquis then apologizes for this cruel joke and escorts Jean back to the Marquis’ home, where he tells Jean to settle down for the evening. Jean acquiesces, only to be awoken during the night by the arrival of another carriage carrying seven passengers, one of them in irons. Jean follows them where he discovers the Marquis is holding some sort of bizarre ceremony, involving ingesting enormous pieces of chocolate cake in a manner that is meant to convey the cake is really made up of bodily waste, bizarre sexual rituals, and the Marquis nailing a crucifix, quite literally. And of course these scenes are all broken apart by short stop-motion vignettes of meat crawling around the countryside.

At this point we checked the timer and saw we were merely a half hour in to this visual acid trip, and with an hour and a half still to go neither of us felt the slightest bit of interest in the film. The film was so content with being obtuse that it was incapable of generating even the slightest bit of interest, let alone reveal even the tiniest bit of plot. The inmates were running this asylum and neither Anna nor I felt up to dealing with their antics, thus we moved on to hopefully greener pastures. Of course the next pasture was Gossip, which surprisingly shared a similar bit of problems with Sílení, that of being high on visual concept, aching low on plot.

Gossip is the tale of three roommates. Travis (Norman Reedus), the stereotypical brilliant starving artist. Jones (Lena Headey), the bleeding heart, and Derrick (James Marsden) the spoiled trust fund baby who finances their every wish and scheme. After Derrick witnesses a rather boring private event between fellow blue bloods Naomi (Kate Hudson) and Beau (Joshua Jackson) at a party, the three deviant roommates decide for their sociology project to start a rumor and track its every movement and incarnation as it shifts from one student to the next. Only when the rumor begins to take a decidedly evil turn, it soon becomes apparent that the motive for this whole exercise may not have been as innocent as it originally appeared.

The plot for Gossip initially appears to be quite simple, and as result screenwriter Gregory Poirier (Tomcats) pulls out all manner of twists and turns and false starts and pseudo endings in an attempt to keep the viewer off balance. This works fairly effectively early in the film, as the viewer is still unaware of just what is to come, but as the story is continually painted into a corner each reversal causes the plot to become more hair brained and less feasible with every passing frame. Plot points and reveals exists simply to further to push the story forward and are aching lacking in plausibility, resulting in a chaotic mess of a story by the time it finally runs out of breath.

Not helping matters are the wafer thin stock characters that seemingly grow denser by the second. Surprisingly enough the normally dreadfully stiff Marsden actually pulls off a decent performance as the despicable womanizing Derrick, a spoiled brat of a man who freely admits he uses people yet his friends still hang out with him because he pays for their enormous flat, an eternally stocked wet bar, and the head scratching interior decorating that is impossible to miss. A blue fridge in a yellow kitchen? Who’s idea was that and can you get your money back?

But while Derrick at least admits he’s a liar, gossip and a womanizer, it is Jones who somehow decides to bring up her righteous indignation at his actions whenever it pleases her. Oh sure, she hates rich people, so long as they won’t freely allow her to be a parasite. If their ever was a worse characterization of a woman in a film, I haven’t seen it. Though I am almost certain Jones is the hero of this tragedy. Also, be sure to watch out for her in the dumbest, most ridiculous and implausible sex scene this side of Sílení.

But while thinking will certainly hamper this viewing experience, the film truly does look incredible. Director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) is clearly showing off his eye for artistic shots and gaudy colors. The camera swirls around from scene to scene, creating a stunning visual wake as it transforms simple staircases into lush Escher landscapes and every doorway an entrance to another galaxy. And the colors, oh the colors. Sure the lighting doesn’t make any sense (it isn’t hard to see the influence producers Joel Schumacher and Jeffrey Silver had on the production) with its green lit rooms, or the blue rainstorms or anything else for that matter, but man if it doesn’t make each frame pop.

If only that much care and innovation was spent on the script Gossip might have transcended trash and might actually have begun to resemble art. But while Gossip never rose above the mediocre goals that it set for itself, it at least managed to hit the mark it was aiming for, while Sílení set the bar quite high and fell painfully short. But who is to say which is more worth your time? All though I would argue that neither are.