Gossip (2000)
Main cast: James Marsden (Derek Webb), Lena Headey (Cathy Jones), and Norman Reedus (Travis)
Director: Davis Guggenheim

Gossip is a stylish, hip thriller that starts off great and smart but rapidly turns into a Hithcock-lite sap towards the end. But it is saved by the sheer explosive charisma of James Marsden, who plays Derek Webb with gusto. And Leana Headey's Cathy "Just Jones" Jones is also a splendid heroine who is torn between conscience and desire.

The story is about rich kid Derek who rents his loft to Jones. Both decide to take in broke and eccentric artist/fellow college buddy Travis and the three of them spin tales for laugh. One day Jones decide to take Derek's idea for a project in communication studies class. They would spin a rumor and trace it to see how exponential it grows in outrageousness as it passes from person to person.

Their target? The local self-proclaimed chastity queen Naomi (Kate Hudson) whom Derek saw making out with Beau (Joshua Jackson). They would spread the tale that Naomi has done the deed with Beau. What they don't expect is Naomi pressing charges on Beau for rape. And things go really downhill from there.

Gossip starts out an interesting stab at our preoccupation with gossip and scandals. Is news just gossip reported in "legal" media? How much outrageousness would we take in the name of entertainment, albeit a perverse one? However, as the movie goes into its second leg, the issues of date rape and rumor mongering are thrown out of the window for some clumsily-executed I Wannabe Be Hitchcock suspense thread. Here the movie is at its weakest - it has become just another thriller.

But James Marsden is truly a surprise as Derek, a man who could tell any outrageous lies and gets away with it most of the time. I don't even know if he is the rogue or truly genuine. Jones couldn't resist, I couldn't either. Even after his most nasty, when he offers a handkerchief to Jones, I still can't resist. Rake, sex appeal on legs - Derek Webb is sheer magnetism. Jones and Travis are also bona fide image of coolness of their own right, and with Derek, they are college kids we can only wish to be: hip, smart, no money worries, and damn if they don't look good.

Gossip may be a stinker in its plot, but the main characters redefine the word charismatic.

Rating: 89

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