It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"The Leading Man" begins as a backstage story about the London theater world, and then a little Hitchcockian intrigue edges into the frame. The movie's about "Britain's greatest living playwright," a bedeviled middle-aged man with a wife and a mistress, both angry with him. A Hollywood sex symbol, who is starring in his new play, offers to solve all his problems by seducing the wife.
This is a little like Hitchcock's setup in "Strangers on a Train," where an outsider sees a need and volunteers to meet it--at a price. The neat trick in "The Leading Man" is that we never quite understand the movie star's complete plan. Why is he doing this (apart from getting the husband's license to seduce the wife?). What else does he have in mind? The movie star, Robin Grange, is played by the rock musician Jon Bon Jovi, who is convincing as a man who is completely confident of his ability to seduce any woman, anywhere, anytime. Like Richard Gere, he has a way of looking at a woman as if they're both thinking the same thing.
The playwright, Felix Webb (Lambert Wilson) is one of those men for whom romantic intrigue is hardly worth the trouble: His wife is bitter at his treatment of his family; his mistress is tired of his promises that someday, very soon, he will leave his wife. He can't be happy anywhere.
Felix's problems come to a boil during rehearsals for his new play, which stars both Robin and Hilary (Thandie Newton), his mistress. It also stars two dependable British veterans, played by David Warner and Patricia Hodge, who have seen backstage affairs before, and will see them again, and simply turn up to do their jobs. (While the younger actors are doing nervous deep-breathing exercises before the curtain goes up, Warner's character listens to cricket and plays solitaire).