As if to answer his critics, those who claim he has no range and is rather stolid on the screen, Richard Gere cuts loose with a raw and exhilarating performance as the title character in "Mr. Jones," yet another in the long tradition of Hollywood movies that suggest mental illness can be fun.
Oh, there are tragic and weepy moments, of course, as Gere follows his higher-than-high manic moods with depressive ones that are lower than low. But for the most part, this glossy Hollywood romantic melodrama is a rehash of themes we've seen too many times before, most recently in pictures like "The Prince of Tides," "The Dream Team" and "Crazy People."
The identity of "Mr. Jones" is rather ill-defined. He has money (more than $12,000 in a savings account) and talent (he plays classical piano) and charm (men and women alike are taken by him). But who he really is or where he comes from is still rather vague when the film concludes.
Oddly, it opens with its focus on Lena Olin ("Havana," "The Unbearable Lightness of Being"), as if the point of view will come from her character, a psychiatrist whose life is in a state of upheaval. She is separated from her husband, who has taken up with a blonde bimbo, and seems to have no friends or family or any personal life at all.
But then the point of view changes as the action shifts to Gere, who is giddy and goofy as he bluffs his way into a carpentry job, makes a friend of one of his co-workers, gives the guy a $100 bill and is soon balancing himself precariously on a roof beam, claiming he can fly.
Naturally, this lands him in a local mental hospital, where he meets Olin. They are both vulnerable, of course, and if you can't figure out where this is headed, you need to get out more often.
Gere's character goes through predictable ups and downs, with occasional outrageous scenes that have him doing things like interrupting a symphony concert, playing a series of pianos in a showroom, kissing a woman on the street and then outrunning her livid boyfriend, etc. And Gere throws himself into the role with vigor, taking full advantage of this showstopping opportunity.
And there are always terrific acting roles as psychiatric patients in movies like this, and several supporting players take full advantage, most notably Lauren Tom ("The Joy Luck Club"). Delroy Lindo is also good as the construction worker who tries to help Gere. But Anne Bancroft, as Olin's boss, and an unbilled Bill Pullman ("Malice"), as the construction boss, have nothing to do.
As written by Eric Roth ("Suspect," "Memories of Me") and Michael Cristofer ("The Shadow Box," "The Witches of Eastwick") and directed by Michael Figgis ("Internal Affairs," "Lie-best-raum"), the energy level sags much of the way and the situations are too predictable and flat.
Gere fans may want to put this on their must-see list but others will likely find it routine.
"Mr. Jones" is rated R for considerable profanity, some violence and nudity.