Phone Booth

Stu Shepard: Colin Farrell
The Caller (voice): Kiefer Sutherland
Capt. Ramey: Forest Whitaker
Kelly Shepard: Radha Mitchell
Pamela McFadden: Katie Holmes

Fox 2000 Pictures presents a film directed by Joel Schumacher. Written by Larry Cohen. Running time: 81 minutes. Rated R (for pervasive language and some violence).

Central Theme
Be sure, your sins will find you out.

A phone call can change your life, but for one man it can also end it. Set entirely within and around the confines of a New York City phone booth, PHONE BOOTH follows Stu Sheperd (Colin Farrell), a low-rent media consultant who is trapped after being told by a caller – a serial killer with a sniper rifle – that he’ll be shot dead if he hangs up.

What do you do when you hear a ringing public phone? You know it’s a wrong number, but instinct forces you to pick it up. A ringing phone demands to be answered, but when Stu Shepard takes the call, he finds himself hurtled into a tortuous game. Hang up, says the caller (Kiefer Sutherland), and Stu’s a dead man.

A sudden and shocking act of violence near the booth draws the attention of the police, who arrive backed with a small army of sharpshooters. They believe that Stu, not the unseen caller of whom they remain unaware, is the dangerous man with a gun.

The senior officer on the scene, Captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker), tries to talk Stu out of the booth. But unbeknownst to Ramey, his team, the media circus that has flocked to the site – and Stu’s wife, Kelly, and his client /prospective girlfriend, Pamela – the caller has them all in his high-powered rifle sights.

As afternoon turns into evening, Stu, the embodiment of an unethical, self-serving existence, must now undertake a sudden and unexpected moral evolution. He is emotionally stripped naked by the caller. Stu’s lies, half-truths, and obfuscation no longer matter. Instead, he must dig deep into his soul, find his strength and attempt to outwit the caller, taking the game to an even more dangerous level. ‚© Fox 2000 Pictures.

This film deals with the un-confessed, secret sins of one man who faces judgment, in this case, not at the hands of a righteous God, but at the hands of a madman. Like most humans, Stu has rationalized his ‘sins” and thinks they aren’t that big a deal. He seems beyond shame. An all-knowing sniper traps Stu in a phone booth, which serves as his confessional, Stu is made to confront his sins in the presence of one who seems to know them as well as he does. Nothing secret remains un-revealed. Stu tries to satisfy his inquisitor and judge, at one point confessing the human weakness that is at his core. He now feels shame. He now realizes that his sins, even those lustful thoughts in his mind, are serious and he deserves to be punished. After he confesses, he departs from the booth, arms extended to the side, like Jesus crucified. He is shot (with a rubber bullet) and resurrected in the arms of his wife, cleansed and desiring to tell her the truth, only and always. And yet the judge still lives. There could be a future judgment.

The sign behind the phone booth asks, ”who do you think you are?” and Stu spends his time answering that question for himself. Inside the booth is a sign for “penance” perfume. The introductory music lyrically cries out, “operator get me information, get me Jesus on the line.” Though his judge is insane, the film still reveals how judgment, confession and redemption can play themselves out in a person under conviction. When he finally confesses all, he is forgiven by his wife and experiences release from his guilt.

The movie was shot on one set in ten days and release was withheld when a DC sniper was in the headlines.

Beliefs num
–All have sinned.
–All have secret, private, sinful thoughts.
–What we think is private is known by others and one day will be made public.
–We will be judge for our acts, public and private.
–Our private sins hurt other people.
–It is important to confess our sins.
–Honest confession will be followed by forgiveness.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What are the artistic merits of this film?
–What elements common to human experience did you resonate with in this film?
–What elements in word, deed, theme or behavior created a dissonance with who you are or want to be spiritually?
–What does this film tell us about whom God is? Who humans are? What we are seeking in life?
–Do you believe secret sins will one day be known?
–Will we one day be judged for our sins, even those done in secret?
–Will we be forgiven for these sins? Why? How?

Provocative Quotes byline
–Isn’t it funny – you hear a phone ringing and it could be anybody.
A ringing phone has to be answered, doesn’t it?
–Do you see the tourists with their video cameras, hoping the cops will shoot so they can sell the tape?
–It’s not in your best interest to hang up on me.
–I know his lies. I’m afraid Stu hasn’t been totally honest with you.
==Sniper to Pamela.
–I would just like you to tell Kelley the truth about yourself. Tell her you want to sleep with another woman.
–If you have to ask, you’re not ready to know.
==Sniper when Stu asks what he did to deserve this.
–Now doesn’t that just torque your jaws? I love that. You know like in the movies just as the good guy is about to kill the bad guy, he cocks his gun. Now why didn’t he have it cocked? Because that sound is scary. It’s cool, isn’t it?
–You are guilty of inhumanity to your fellow man. You picked the wrong person to lie to. You could ask her to forgive you. Confess your sins and seek absolution.
==Sniper to Stu.
–I’m not the one who hurt her Stu. What they can’t know is what we do to them in our minds. How many times have you had sex with Pam in that hotel room in your mind? Your choices put other people in jeopardy Stu.
–Enough of this sideshow Stu, your sins have finally caught up with you. If you want to save yourself, confess. No more excuses and 1/2 truths.
–You couldn’t find anyone worse than me… not a murderer or a child molester, a publicist who fantasizes about pretty little actresses.
–Stuart. I know your crimes. Tell them.
–I’ve never done anything for anyone who couldn’t do something for me . I string along an eager kid with promises that I’ll pay him money. I only keep him around because he looks up to me. Adam if you’re watching, don’t be a publicist. You’re too good for it. I lie in person and on the phone. I lie to my friends. I lie to newspapers and magazines who sell my lies to more and more people. I’m just a part of a big cycle of lies, I should be f—kin President. I wear all this Italian shit, because underneath I still feel like the Bronx. I think I need these clothes and this watch. My two-thousand dollar watch is fake, and so am I. I neglected the things I should have valued most. I value this shit. I take off my wedding ring to call Pam. Kelly that’s Pam. Don’t blame her. I never told her I was married and if I did, she would have told me to go home. Kelley, looking at you now, I’m ashamed of myself. I worked so hard on this image of Stu Shepard who refers to himself in the third person, that I only proved, I should be alone. I’ve been dressin up as something I’m not for so long, I’m so afraid you won’t like what’s underneath. Here I am just flesh and blood and weakness. I love you so f—kin much. I take off this ring because it only reminds me of how I failed you. I don’t want to give you up. I want to make things better, but it may not be my choice anymore. You deserve better.
–I didn’t do it for you.
==Stu to Sniper on why he confessed, knowing the Sniper wouldn’t let him go anyway.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in April 4, 2003 by | No Comments »

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