Anne Hathaway’s attempt at getting away from her Disney image is 2005’s Havoc, a straight-to-video release that explores the lives of affluent teenagers who attempt to break out of their boredom by getting involved in a gangster lifestyle. Directed by Barbara Kopple, who is primarily a documentary filmmaker, this film was shown at several film festivals but never made a theatrical release in the United States. Havoc went straight-to-video on November 29, 2005. Havoc also stars Bijou Phillips, Shiri Appleby, Freddy Rodriguez, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Havoc is probably most notable for being the subject of a lot of internet rumours after Anne Hathaway, the film’s star, participated in several nude and sexual scenes. Before Havoc, Hathaway was primarily known for roles in family-friendly Disney comedies, including The Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted. Hathaway allegedly took the role to distance herself from her family-friendly image, which is certainly important for an actress with image issues. The idea behind taking on the role was awkward and that’s about how it plays out on screen in Havoc, as Hathaway has a discomfited energy that caustically invades each scene she’s in like somebody who’s trying too hard.
Sometimes a transition to “older Hollywood” is seamless, as in the cases of Claire Danes, Jodie Foster, and Kirsten Dunst. In other cases, watching someone grow up Hollywood-style can be a little more painful, as in the case of the Olsen twins and Lindsay Lohan. With Hathaway, the process was immediate and radical. Hathaway plays Allison, a spoiled rich brat from Los Angeles. She lives with her parents, who don’t talk to her very often and supply her with all of her affluent needs to support her “lifestyle.” Her lifestyle is that of a pseudo-gangster-chick, as she hangs out with other pseudo-gangsters in her ‘hood. Eventually, the inexorable escalation of flirting with danger takes over and Allison is in a whole heap of trouble with a Latino drug dealer and his set.
Havoc boasts a screenplay by Stephen Gaghan, who worked on Traffic and wrote and directed Syriana. No stranger to bad screenplay territory, however, Gaghan also wrote 2004’s The Alamo and 2000’s Rules of Engagement. He worked through the original screenplay for Havoc, which reared its ugly head in 1993 as a piece by then-17-year-old Jessica Kaplan. It’s likely that Kaplan’s original screenplay may have been more compelling back in the mid-90s when this stuff was more pertinent and honest, but alas the film was passed upon briefly after being picked up. Off it went to Gaghan, years later. Gaghan’s screenplays have a way of being very disaffecting in the wrong hands and, sadly, with Havoc his screenplay is most assuredly in the wrong hands. While director Barbara Kopple has shown a steady hand with directing documentaries and even won some big awards for her work, here she shows an innate desire to misconstrue and muddle just about every scene.
The main focal point of the story is supposed to be how Allison’s faux gangster girl persona is a put-on and how she’s really not like that in the “real world.” Unfortunately, Kopple’s film suffers from a lack of character build and direction, leaving Hathaway to stumble around mercilessly from stereotype to stereotype. While it’s partially the point to have Hathaway as a fish out of water, if real life wasn’t imitating art so much, the film would have been more effectual. A big part of the problem is that it becomes so obvious that Hathaway is slumming it and the film starts to seem like a film version of a girl posing for Playboy to piss off her parents.
The other performers are relatively invisible, save for Freddy Rodriguez as the Latin drug dealer who somehow invokes curiosity in Allison. His character is certainly the most entertaining on the screen, yet something about him in the role is strangely awkward as well. Much like the film categorizes kids in over their heads, the casting seems the same way as the actors struggle to adapt to roles that certainly weren’t tailored for them. Instead of seamlessly invoking the flaws and balance within what could have been very naturalized characters, Rodriguez, Phillips, Hathaway, and everyone else in this picture simply inhabit the skin. The result ends up sucking the life out of the material, which wasn’t very good to begin with, and leaves the viewer flat.
So there you have it. There’s really not much more to say about this release. Havoc will likely interest those that want to see Anne Hathaway’s boobs, but it doesn’t hold much other value. It’s surprisingly slow, stunningly clunky, awkward, and silly. Hathaway’s desperation to ditch Disney collapses in a heap, which is too bad for this gifted actress. Luckily, she’d have better things on the horizon than this stinker.