Kevin Spacey’s latest film quietly lands on VOD in July, and how we receive it will determine our resolve against abuse.
Separating art from the artist is an eternal struggle. Until humanity can free itself from sin, we will constantly be called upon to discern whether or not we can enjoy a product created by an individual who operates below our standards of morality. Pressing play on Chinatown or Braveheart now comes with an added philosophical turmoil. The decision we make is a deeply personal one, and in my case, ever evolving.
Billionaire Boys Club is a “Based on True Events” wannabe Wolf of Wall Street detailing the scuzzy greed that fuels a group of rich kids in 1980s Los Angeles. Ansel Elgort and Taron Egerton concoct a Ponzi scheme that gains the attention of Kevin Spacey‘s con man, and their partnership escalates into bloodshed. Money is the root of all evil, blah, blah, blah. You know the drill.
The film was shot nearly three years before the allegations of abuse against Spacey became public. The film’s distributor, Vertical Entertainment, has struggled with a release strategy and are now looking to dump it on VOD in July, plus a limited theatrical run in August. The goal is to free themselves of the stink so they can move on to another, hopefully, less tainted endeavor.
In a statement released to The Wrap, Vertical Entertainment explained their decision to finally put Billionaire Boys Club in front of us:
“We don’t condone sexual harassment on any level and we fully support victims of it. At the same time, this is neither an easy nor insensitive decision to release this film in theaters, but we believe in giving the cast, as well as hundreds of crew members who worked hard on the film, the chance to see their final product reach audiences.”
Understandable. Besides the actors on the screen, there is an entire army of creatives pouring themselves into every pixel of every frame. As film maniacs, we pride ourselves in celebrating the actors, the directors, the cinematographers, the costume designers, the production designers, etc. And those are just the flashy gigs. We rarely even consider the A.D.s, the focus pullers, the grips, the gaffers, the drivers, the runners, and the legion names that build the end credits.
The producers of Billionaire Boys Club do not have the money to replace Spacey with Christopher Plummer a la All The Money In The World. They’re stuck with his mug, and they cannot mask his involvement through clever trailer editing. What they can do is not flush a bunch of money into needless advertising, and push the film out there as quick as possible.
Under this strategy, the impulse might be to duck and cover, but if Vertical Entertainment wants to remain viable in the market, they also have to explain themselves. They have to shift the onus to the audience. They need to be free of blame. To that end, Vertical Entertainment concluded their statement with a plea to our understanding:
“In the end, we hope audiences make up their own minds as to the reprehensible allegations of one person’s past, but not at the expense of the entire cast and crew present on this film.”
Again, I gotta agree with them. It’s on us to determine what to do with a film like Billionaire Boys Club. One man does not define a movie, but if we are legit done with this level of behavior in Hollywood and our daily lives, then we cannot leave the door ajar as an invitation to return. We are in charge of the world we want to live in.
There is no controlling the hurt once your film is scarred with atrocity. The damage is done. Move on and find your bliss on the next project. Egerton, Elgort, and the rest will have other opportunities to create and inspire.
What do we do with Spacey’s back catalog? I don’t know. I’m not sure I can watch The Usual Suspects or Baby Driver without a pang of unease. They are movies I cherished upon release, and a part of me will always love them. That internal conversation is forever in flux. What I am confident in saying, is that I can not condone future endeavors knowing what I know. I am not ready for the Spacey redemption tour, and supporting Billionaire Boys Club does not sit well with me.
The moment we ignore the debate is when we truly get into trouble.