ROAD LEADS TO TAWDRY "TULSA"
Richter Boudreau, Eric Stoltz; Trudy, Cameron Diaz; Louise Brinkman,
Randy Graff; Preston Liddy, Dennis Letts; Cynthia Boudreau, Mary
Tyler Moore; Billy, Josh Ridgway; Bedford Shaw, Marco Perella; Harmon
Shaw, James Coburn; Vicky Michaels Stover, Deborah Kara Unger; Ronnie
Stover, James Spader; Keith Michaels, Michael Rooker; Cherry, Joanna
Going. Screenplay by Harley Peyton. Based on the novel by Brian
Fair Berkey. Directed by Leslie Greif. A Gramercy Pictures release.
Rated R: nudity, profanity and violence. Opens today at the Cherry
Who's it for? Adults.
Keys to Tulsa is the ultimate B-movie, and that's not a bad thing.
This finely acted, tawdry little movie has the same low-rent morality
as lots of recent movies, and may make audiences think they've stumbled
into Quentin Tarantino territory. It's true, but that doesn't mean
Tulsa isn't worth a visit by those who like their movies down-and-dirty.
The story centers on Richter Boudreau (Eric Stoltz), an under-achieving
young man who has landed a job at the local newspaper. Want to know
how low he's sunk? I'll tell you: He's reduced to writing film reviews.
But Richter really is drifting through his life and through the
lives of old friends. The plot involves a murder mystery and blackmail,
but that's not really the point. Keys To Tulsa means to parade its
wacked-out characters before us. It does.
Two of the best are played in cameo by Mary Tyler Moore and James
Coburn. She's Richter's mom, a woman whose lips look swollen with
collagen and who's accumulating marriages the way other people collect
matchbook covers. Coburn portrays the town's big shot, an oil baron
with a taste for fine cigars and a distaste for Richter, who once
slept with his daughter.
The rest of the cast is equally good, but the real surprise is James
Spader. He plays an Elvis type from the wrong side of the tracks.
With his hair dyed black, he gives the most unusual performance
of his career, abandoning yuppie smoothness in favor of something
As is the case with most such movies, the women are meant to project
a mixture of heat and savvy. Deborah Kara Unger, a blond whose drawl
makes it seem as if words are sauntering sexily out of her mouth,
is plenty sultry. Joanna Going appears as a stripper with a part-time
interest in drugs.
For every sexpot, there must also be a nut job. Michael Rooker handles
those chores. He's Unger's brother, a loose-cannon character who
reeks of danger. His idea of a good time involves ``breaking things
into little pieces.''
If Stoltz, with his Leave It To Beaver voice, is slightly bland,
maybe that's how it's supposed to be. He's at the center of the
storm and can't be overly turbulent.
What bothered me about Tulsa was a tendency to become a little too
mean-spirited. At one point, a character repeats a racial joke she
has heard. It's told to illustrate another character's racist attitudes,
but that should have been done directly. As it stands, the joke
seems gratuitous. Sometimes, it's difficult to be amused by characters
who also disgust us.
For the most part, though, director Leslie Greif's debut film purrs
along with the requisite nastiness. Working from a script by Harley
Peyton, Greif doesn't conclude in a novel enough way, but there's
lots of bumpy fun before this road reaches its conclusion.
Mountain News (Denver, CO); 4/11/1997; Denerstein, Robert
©1997 Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved. Reproduced
with the permission of the Dialog Corporation by Gale Group.
(Thank you, kitkat)