This innovative drama from writer and director James Toback (BUGSY, BLACK AND WHITE) follows the travails of Alan Jensen (Adrian Grenier), a Harvard student determined to live life to the fullest and find the ultimate trut... more »h. He gets high regularly, and is sleeping with Holy Cross cheerleader Cindy Bandolini (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who also happens to be a mobster's daughter. Simultaneously, Alan is carrying on an illicit affair with his philosophy professor, Chesney Cort (Joey Lauren Adams), a woman with a vast sexual appetite. When his parents lose their Kansas home in a tornado, Alan is desperate to help them financially. He turns to Cindy's father for a loan and is soon entrenched in a high-stakes gambling scheme. But all is not as it seems and Alan soon finds himself in over his head with many aspects of his life: his drug use, the women in his life, and even the FBI. Grenier is endearing as the truth-seeking Alan, and as a tough-talking Mafia princess, Gellar steps far away from her television persona as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Eric Stoltz and Rebecca Gayheart lend their talents in supporting roles that add to the film?s twisting storyline.« less
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 09/18/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I am a little surprised that Harvard has not sued the makers of this film for associating the ivy-league college with such a horrible cinematic experience. I, like many, sought this film out because Sarah Michelle Geller was in it; when I learned Rebecca Gayheart was also in the cast, I thought to myself: How bad can a film with both Geller and Gayheart be? Let me tell you: pretty doggone bad. First and foremost, the storyline and script are simply dreadful and ill-conceived, and these problems are only exacerbated by the prominence of some untalented actors in the cast. Alan Grenier is Alan Jensen, supposedly the starting point guard on the Harvard basketball team, despite the fact that he is rather short, has no semblance of athletic skill, and really doesn't even try to look like he knows what he's doing when he's on the basketball court. Honestly, this is one of the worst casting decisions I've ever seen. Did I mention the fact that his acting skills also seem to be in short supply? Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Cindy Bandolini, the unprincipled daughter of a mafia don and girlfriend of Alan; talk about your odd couple; several love scenes between the two are just icky. Of course, our ruggedly unhandsome Alan is not content with Cindy; no, he is also sleeping with his philosophy professor Chesney Cort (played by the helium-voiced Joey Lauren Adams). Back in Kansas, a tornado destroys the home of Alan's parents, and he is determined to get the one hundred thousand dollars needed for them to rebuild. In steps Cindy with a plan to make a killing off a sports bet; all Alan has to do is throw the big game against Dartmouth. Soon, the FBI is nosing around, everybody sort of panics, hope rises in the viewer that at least one of these dreadful characters will die, and then a pretty impossible if not ludicrous ending is thrown together at the end. You don't really even care how bad the conclusion is because you are just glad the film is finally over. I don't think I've ever seen a movie go to such lengths to annoy its audience. Almost every scene features what I would call stop gaps; every few seconds, the film seems to jump a few frames for no reason whatsoever; this is a short-term technique that should be used sparingly, but the director of Harvard Man shot the entire movie this way, and it made me want to scream. Then there is the music; it's just awful, and even worse it is constant and far too loud most of the time. I guess a lot of it is supposed to sound Italian or something, even though the Mafia bit is not that important to the film. The inclusion of Ray Allen, an actual basketball player, in the movie also makes no sense. When Allen's character talks to Grenier, both of them seem to be in a race to see who can say his lines the fastest, and Allen tries so hard not to look like a professional basketball player that he ends up looking just as bad as everyone around him on the court. Just when you think things can't possibly get any worse, we are taken along for an extended LSD trip in which all the voices the character hears building up inside his head assault our own ears as well in a rising crescendo. This, in conjunction with all the other problems, qualifies this film as pure and utter torture. I have no idea why Sarah Michelle Gellar chose to participate in Harvard Man, but it almost has to be a decision she now regrets."
Actually, Sarah Michelle Gellar is more than eye candy here
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 03/09/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this movie because it had Sarah Michelle Gellar in it and I am a big fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I am not, in common parlance, hot for Gellar (Alyson Hannigan's smile does it for me), but for those who check out "Harvard Man" specifically to enjoy the actress this film starts to deliver while the image on the screen is still blank. However, it will not take long for you to figure out that Gellar is just eye candy in this film (even more so on the DVD) because the real focus is on the character of Alan Jensen (Adrian Grenier), the alter-ego of writer-director James Toback who takes a kitchen sink approach to loading problems on this particular Harvard student to make his life explode for our cinematic enjoyment.Alan is the point guard for Harvard's basketball team, who is "seeing" Cindy Bandolini (Gellar); she is not only a cheerleader at Holy Cross, but her father (Gianni Russo) is also the chief Mafioso for the Northeastern United States. He is also seeing Chesney Cort (Joey Lauren Adams), a Harvard Philosophy professor with one of the more interesting lecturing voices in the history of academia. But then Alan's life is disrupted by a tornado in Kansas that wipes out his family's uninsured home and a chemistry student friend who has baked up some new and improved LSD. So Alan needs $100,000 and suggests to Cindy that maybe her father can float him a loan. Cindy reports that this can happen, but Alan would have to do something in return and suddenly we are into the wonderful world of point shaving in the big Harvard-Dartmouth game. If this was not enough fun, Alan pops the acid just as the FBI are about to make their presence known. Almost all of the above action takes place to the accompaniment of music by J. S. Bach. "Harvard Man" will remind you of some of Toback's earlier films, especially his first script for "The Gambler" and his 1987 "The Pick-Up Artist." These a films where not only are we watching interesting things happening to the characters, but where the characters tend to explore themselves and their actions in great detail (a tendency that extends even to the Mutt and Jeff Mafia hitmen running around in a sub-plot). For those of us who remember drug sequences from Sixties films trying to represent acid trips, "Harvard Man" is relatively tame and Toback ends up trying to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the end to set things right. Still, Gellar actually does end up with more to do in this film than look good and the story managed to get Eric Stoltz, John Neville and N.B.A. superstar Ray Allen on board. "Harvard Man" ends up being a high-paced roller coaster ride in which you have no idea how it is all going to play out, which is certainly nothing like being boring and predictable. ..."
Brilliant character acting and a unique style
Neil Hemming | Redditch United Kingdom | 06/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although James Toback's editing style takes a little getting used to (he tends to cut back and forth from scene to scene) this is still a great thought provoking film about a college student's attempts to escape the ever increasing banality of his life - first with sex and then by taking a huge quantity of LSD.Adrian Grenier does a fine job in a difficult role, as the eponymous Harvard Man, however the real star of the film is Sarah Michelle Gellar, who as always, is superb and hugely entertaining - playing a smart, sexy, manipulative and fast talking gangster's daughter with the delightful name of Cindy Bandolini. Okay, so this won't be to everyone's tastes I'm sure but if like me you're a fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar's brilliant character acting or James Toback's unique style of film making then this is a must-see."
Talented actors, bad script
Jim | Boston, MA | 11/11/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Read the other reviews for plot and story information.
After reading the synaposis about sex, drugs and gambling on the video cover in which Sarah Gellar, Joey Adams,and Rebecca Gayheart are present, I could only anticipate the sexy possibilities that could be forthcoming.
Unfortunately, the lack of any interesting storyline in the plot killed any notion of that even 1/2 hour into the movie.
It's hard to even imagine that Alan Jensen (Adrian Grenier) would even be able to bed both the Professor Chesney, and his girlfriend Cindy even if he is on the basketball team. We never know what Jensen's personality is really like except that he is into drugs. Is he smart, funny, what got him into Harvard? Who knows & who cares?
Gellar is acceptable as the daughter of a mobster. Adams is the most enjoyable part of the movie, with her raspy, sexy voice. She makes sense and is the glue that holds the stories together . The sex scenes, and they are not explicit, contain a lot of noices, but are boring, and except for Cindy and Alan's performance in the woods, none of it even matters.
The Director does amuse a little with some camera effects after Jensen takes some LSD, but those again, get boring and overused.
The performance of Stoltz and Gayheart as FBI agents is a joke. (I just ruined the only twist of the movie.
This was a long 2 hours. I hope Harvard is better than this!"
Don't Pay Attention To What Other People Say
Greg | Simsbury, CT USA | 05/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well, I was surfing the TV channels late at night one day and I ran across this movie on UPN. I had never heard of it before, and I decided to give it a try due to the fact that I was extremely bored.
Myself being a casual Buffy fan, meaning I've seen 15 episodes at the most, I figured I'd watch it because Sarah Michelle Gellar was in it. But keep in mind that is only what got me to watch the movie in the first place and skip over Goldeneye on Telemundo (which is, by the way, a very good version of the movie, si tú hablas español and can find it on some station.) If you go into this movie expecting to see a lot of Sarah Michelle Geller (henceforth called SMG), you will be grossly dissapointed. She doesn't have that big of a role in this film. I went into the movie with an open mind, and tried to ignore the really annoying scenes in the beginning with slow frame rates and jerky camera movements, plus hearing 2 songs at once, overtop of commentary. But even though the beginning is very annoying, the rest of the movie is very good. I don't need to give a rundown of the plot, but I will say it takes a bit of understanding and intelligence to be able to take in all that is happening and not be overly confused. I personally really enjoyed the movie, and can't understand how all of these negative reviewers didn't like it at all. In my opinion, it is a must buy."