(Air Date: Week Of 04/10/96)
About an hour into the mordant comedy, "The Last Supper," I had the pleasant realization that I was watching a real movie. I had expected the worst--some New York film student's pretentious academic exercise, or perhaps the latest cynical attempt to pass off bad Gen X sketch comedy as feature-length entertainment. But "The Last Supper" is actually about something, and it opens up in unforeseen ways along the way, asking impertinent questions as it goes.
The film takes place almost entirely in a house in a small Iowa town populated by five idealistic grad students. One rainy night, an unexpected dinner guest turns out to be a bit of a sociopath and threatens a housemate's life. Things escalate in a hurry and suddenly this scum in a lumber jacket ends up with a knife in his back. The housemates hurriedly bury the body, cover up the crime, debate the immorality of their actions and . . . slowly . . . stumble on an idea: Wouldn't they be doing society a favor by offing other despicable and malevolent people?
A succession of victims follows, all served poisoned wine at the dinner table after they've been deemed irredeemable. Familiar faces such as Charles Durning, Jason Alexander and Mark Harmon show up as smiling monsters who believe that AIDS is God's revenge on gays or that abortion clinics should be stopped or that sex education must be banned from schools.
"The Last Supper" is a liberal's fantasy, at least for most of the way. But the grad students prove to be just as drunk and irresponsible with power as your average freshman Republican congressman. One of the housemates, a skeet-shooting preppie, pulls the trigger on a live bird one day. And another housemate, a no-BS black man who's the leader of this ad hoc vigilante group, goes completely over the top.
"The Last Supper" is sly and unsettling, all the more so because it isn't content with easy targets like rednecks and homophobes. And the film's resolution, involving a popular right- wing TV pundit who's invited over for dinner when his flight is delayed, brings everything full circle with conviction and poignancy.
Interestingly, although the guys are sharply etched, the two female housemates are bland window dressing. That's surprising because the film was directed by a woman, Stacy Title, making her feature debut. But then again, political correctness is just one of the sacred cows served up in "The Last Supper."
Copyright 1996 Michael Fox
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