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Gossip (2000)

Directed by Davis Guggenheim   Story by Gregory Poirier   Written by Gregory Poirier &  Theresa Rebeck

    I’m rather surprised Gossip hasn’t received more attention through the years. While attending Texas Frightmare, during the panel for The Walking Dead, this film had been brought up to show admiration for Norman Reedus. But not as many people clapped for how full the room was. Could it be people just haven’t heard of it? This was actually the first film I saw him in and it was his intriguing/mysterious notions that were too hard to ignore; creating the admiration I hold to this day for him. Speaking entirely on my own behalf, the time span from 1996-2000 yielded some great high school/college thrillers. Which captured a familiar group of endowed actors bringing stories to life in matters done much more artistically than given credit for. Nor repeated in today’s college thrillers.

Jones (Lena Headey) is seen in a Library trying to study. Though the deeper she gets into her book the more post-it notes she finds throughout stating she was late and to leave immediately. Taking the hint and heading back to her place to get ready, not forgetting her camera as she heads out to an underground club meeting up with roommates Derrick (James Marsden) and Travis (Norman Reedus). Placing an obvious trust into these two and clearly being taken in because of her “one of the guys” attitude, the three begin to drink the night away. The night starts out on an immediate hitch when Travis’s otherwise failed attempt to speak with a girl doesn’t go as intended. To which Derrick decides to tell a tale to the insensitive bartender of Travis being a Rock legend’s son, unable to say which one. Almost instantaneously changing the atmosphere of the club who now seemed curious as to which one it cold possible be. Waking up the next morning to head off to Professor Goodwin’s (Eric Bogosian) class where they were discussing the topic of gossip. Expected to come up with a thesis and paper to follow on the subject.

Once heading off into the night yet again, Jones gets the idea for the three of them to do a paper together, starting a rumor to track its progress. As a means to document hearsay and the out of control effects that can occur. The victim later decided while taking photos of her friend Sheila, (Marisa Coughlan) and slightly running into Naomi Preston’s (Kate Hudson) car door. Known for her popularity, Jones takes a quick picture of her with her beau, ironically named such, played by Joshua Jackson. Eventually finding her way to the bar where Jones gets the assumption Naomi was helping spread a rumor concerning her and the professor. A brief exchange of “fuck off” ends with Naomi and her date proceeding to the dance floor. But Derrick had wondered upstairs with a girl who had approached him earlier. Giving in to the alcohol ingested and remaining attached to the toilet as Derrick lets his curiosity take over, peering into the room next door where Naomi and Beau had ended up. Things starting to get hot and heavy when a tipsy Naomi tells Beau that she was too drunk and to please stop. Is this simply a voyeuristic mood enhancer for himself, or is there something he’s specifically interested in, not leading onto?

We later pan to Beau leaving the party, being coy about what may have gone on with Derrick shown standing over the bed as Naomi’s passed out. Knowing immediately what to do with the events of that night Derrick explains to his roommates knowing which rumor to go forth with for their paper. They could say the two had sex while the party was still going on, disrupting Naomi’s reputation of being a prude and wanting to save herself. Dragging a drunken Travis back to the apartment the two share a moment in which Derrick tries using his good looks and charm against Jones who clearly had some attachment to him. Faced with the conflict of being able to see past his pretentious bullshit used all too well with others.

Travis becomes the mastermind behind their project and has figured out a way to turn their rumor and its progress into a piece of art. Reedus was responsible for the artwork created on the televisions and computer monitors being an artist in real life as well, taking weeks to arrange everything as shown. When Jones becomes hesitant on going through with the assignment, Derrick threatens a new rumor surfacing about her and the Professor making her give in. The rumor begins to weave its magic around the campus as we’re shown close ups of different students mouths stating what they had each heard. Within a couple of hours the students had been able to give the rumor its own pulse and Naomi finally hears, taking Beau out to lunch to confront him on the matter getting a clear unexplained avoidance of the question.

Taking a turn for the ugly Naomi begins questioning the events of the night when talk of her passed out and Beau going through with sexual relations seems the newest rumor. She goes to the police to have him questioned for charges of rape, bringing back painful memories Naomi was unable to deal with. Holding in a terrible secret from her past and reminded of a similar situation involving someone closer than thought.  Leading to a confrontation between Beau and Naomi of which Sheila puts herself in the middle shouting “Hey Beau, everyone knows what you did.”  There goes his chance of innocence. Beau is later arrested and in an effort to speak to Naomi, Jones stops by her place leaving abruptly after mentioning the name of her roommate who happened to be from her same hometown. It seemed Derrick had been holding back information regarding why he specifically chose her.

Travis continues working on their project which is shown periodically as it progresses. A heated night between Derrick and Jones leaves her more curious as to what he could be hiding, taking a trip out to Danbury in hopes of discovering the truth. Finding out that the two had dated and had lied about having any idea of who she was. Meant as some cruel joke to get back at her for their past. Things spiraling out of control after Naomi was found as a resulted suicide. Detective Curtis (Edward James Olmos) is assigned to investigate if that is in fact what really happened. Derrick feeling the pressure from the Detective and tries throwing nice guy Travis under the bus in an attempt to clear his name. Paranoia and the past finally catching up with him as the ending results unfold throwing in a curve ball here and there. Making it all the more compelling and satisfying when discovering what had actually been going on and the elaborate scheme used back to catch Derrick in his web of lies.

The story showed how well gossip can turn ugly, as it so often does. The “fun” idea of spreading something terrible about someone doesn’t seem to yield any realization for consequences. Though the movie had its displays of comedy with thanks to Reedus. He played the quirky artistic roommate but brought along his charming personality that meshed well with the script. Olmos and Bogosian had small but powerful roles that were equally significant in their own ways. Coming from 200 Cigarettes, Hudson almost had to give up this role for Almost Famous but fortunately was able to film both projects. Overall a thriller of the dangers of social misrepresentation and finding out who your real friends are, Gossip is a fetching mystery that keeps you guessing again and again.

Mad Fact: The campus shown throughout the film is the same campus used in the movies Urban Legend and Skulls; both of which also had Joshua Jackson.