Breakfast of Champions [1999]

Director Alan Rudolph's adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel Breakfast of Champions centers on suicidal car dealer Dwayne Hoover (Bruce Willis), his drug- and television-addled wife Celia (Barbara Hershey), his cross-dressing sales manager Harry (Nick Nolte), his dim secretary and mistress Francine (Glenne Headly), and Vonnegut's alter ego of sorts, pulp writer Kilgore Trout (Albert Finney). Dwayne is desperate for meaning in his life and starts to believe that Trout, who has been invited to the town's impending arts festival, will be able to tell him some truth he's never heard before. The EPA is investigating toxic sludge under property Dwayne owns, Celia is losing her already fragile grip on reality, Harry is growing increasingly paranoid that Dwayne knows about his private habits, and Francine is impatient with Dwayne's increasingly erratic behavior. Meanwhile, Kilgore Trout grouses about his failures and finally decides to attend the arts festival as a final act of self-humiliation. On top of all this, there are four or five other characters, all eccentric to the point of overload. It's difficult to get a fix on what the movie wants to be about, but Glenne Headly makes her character an island of sympathy in the ocean of everyone else's self-absorption, and Albert Finney creates some poignant moments as Trout is confronted by people who either scorn or worship his stories without any attempt to understand them. Featuring a cameo by Vonnegut. --Bret Fetzer

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