A Leonard Cohen-type faces trippy reckoning and a very overused song

Film by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Death of a Ladies’ Man
Friday 12
VOD and theatres

2.5 out of 5

A lot of movies riff on Leonard Cohen but they’re rarely as interesting as the Godfather of Gloom’s work. On one side, you have Sarah Polley’s Take this Waltz, a romantic drama set to and enhanced by Cohen’s music. On the opposite corner you have self-serving documentaries like Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love in which director Nick Broomfield manages to make their epic story all about himself.

Death of a Ladies’ Man is at least its own beast. This mildly compelling character piece with surrealistic overtones revolves around a Leonard Cohen-like character, Samuel O’Shea (Gabriel Byrne). A poetry teacher who’s a bit of a cad and a full-blown alcoholic, O’Shea is going through a rough patch: his second wife has left him, his job doesn’t fulfill him and, perhaps more pressingly, he’s hallucinating and not in the fun way.

As O’Shea realizes he’s not long for this world, he goes through a dark night of the soul. He suspects the source of his self-destructive behaviour and toxic relationships can be traced back to his mother leaving the family. But that realization is only half the battle and there’s plenty of issues that need to be resolved, both with the living and the dead.

Death of a Ladies’ Man can’t sustain any momentum and it loses a lot of steam after it ships its main character to Ireland midway through. That said it benefits from a committed performance by Gabriel Byrne, who just doesn’t know how to phone it in. The film incorporates surrealism in a mostly intelligent, entertaining way.

The supporting French-Canadian cast is top tier (Suzanne Clement, Antoine Olivier Pilon, Karelle Tremblay) but, just like Byrne, they’re let down by an overwritten, overly precious script. The plot holes really become a problem towards the end when O’Shea’s cutesy delusions abandon all connection to reality.

Death of a Ladies’ Man gets some credit for using deeper cuts from the Cohen catalogue but like every other movie with Cohen’s music it can’t keep its greedy little fingers off “Hallelujah”, a legendary song that’s sadly gone from overused to triggering instant eye rolling.