In a bid to defy the wise observation that nobody is ever a villain in their own life story, director Tom Thurman, who has gone into closeup mode on the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Sam Peckinpah and John Ford as well, films Nick Nolte in a sitdown interview – with himself – in Nick Nolte: No Exit. Split personalities and evil twins aside, this not quite mockumentary – though one never knows for sure – navigates the candid and premeditated simultaneously in what may be either Nolte’s role of a lifetime, or off the cuff psychotherapy. Or perhaps a little bit of both.
Setting the record straight from the start, the Nolte on the hot seat announces that no, he is not in possession of three testicles. Though the designated Greek chorus sidebar counting Ben Stiller, is certain the actor has at least two. Then moving beyond testicle issues and expressing enormous relief to find that this won’t in any way be your typical mainstream interview, you know – brace yourself, my journalist colleagues – the ones “for six year olds,” Nolte settles down into rambling autobiographical chatter. Including coming of age during the repressive mid-20th century while enduring the nuclear scare, McCarthyism, conformist culture, and the challenge of groping high school dates through period rubber girdles.
Then Nolte stumbles perhaps inebriated, down memory lane into his early adult years, where the struggle to become a leading man on his own terms butted heads with the outlaw and incorrigible womanizer warring for his soul. Though Jacqueline Bisset knowingly chimes in that Nolte’s libido has surely been less calculating, because his sex appeal hinges on the possibility that “he doesn’t give a shit.” Meanwhile, Rosanna Arquette, providing the lion’s share of comic relief, giggles away in a Beatles tee shirt while recalling sharing a sex scene with Nolte where she sent for a foot double, so as to be spared exposing her own ugly feet.
No Exit’s overly talky format works most of the time, mainly because of Nolte’s casual willingness to be combative with himself and engage in self-ridicule, in particular about his alcoholism and notorious drunk driving celebrity mugshot. Even while dismissing the film entirely because “every interview is a lie” anyway. Though who could invalidate any encounter with Nick Nolte unplugged, even though suspicions frequently run high that viewers are being subjected to a setup, and it’s as if he’s reporting from a bar stool. Especially when addressing his own question that he’s been waiting nearly forever to hear: “Nobody has ever asked me to be silent.”
2 1/2 stars