The film stars Kenneth Branagh as Peter McGowan, a chain-smoking, impotent, insomniac playwright who lives in Los Angeles. Once very successful, he is now in the tenth year of a decade-long string of production failures. His latest play is in the hands of effeminate director Brian Sellars (David Krumholtz), who is obsessed with Petula Clark; his wife Melanie (Robin Wright Penn) is determined to have a baby; he finds himself bonding with a new neighbor's lonely young daughter (Suzi Hofrichter) who has mild cerebral palsy; and during one of his middle-of-the-night strolls, he encounters his oddball doppelgänger (Jared Harris) who claims to be Peter McGowan and develops a friendship of sorts with him.
Kenneth Branagh as Peter McGowen
Robin Wright Penn as Melanie McGowen
Jared Harris as "Pseudo"/"False" Peter McGowen
Suzi Hofrichter as Amy Walsh
Lynn Redgrave as Edna
Peter Riegert as Larry
David Krumholtz as Brian Sellars
Johnathon Schaech as Adam
Kaitlin Hopkins as Victoria
Suzy Joachim as Allana
Brett Rickaby as Janitor
Lucinda Jenney as Trina Walsh
Derek Kellock as Amy's Father
Stacy Hogue as Babysitter
Peri Gilpin as Debra Salhany
Petula Clark's recordings of "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love" and "A Groovy Kind of Love" were heard during the opening and closing credits respectively, and "Downtown 99", a disco remix of her 1964 classic "Downtown", was heard during a party scene. Additional songs originally recorded by Petula Clark were sung by the character of Brian Sellars throughout the film.
In his review in The New York Times, Stephen Holden described the film as "a Hollywood rarity, a movie about an icy grown-up heart-warmed by a child that doesn't wield emotional pliers to try to squeeze out tears…. It is a tribute to Mr. Branagh's considerable comic skills that he succeeds in making a potentially insufferable character likable by infusing him with the same sly charm that Michael Caine musters to seduce us into cozying up to his sleazier alter egos…. Mr. Kalesniko's satirically barbed screenplay, whose spirit harks back to the comic heyday of Blake Edwards, stirs up an insistent verbal energy that rarely flags."
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly rated the movie B and said, "Branagh, in his most forceful non-Shakespeare screen performance, grounds even the softest moments in the angry revolt of his wit." Justine Elias of The Village Voice stated it was "slight but unendurable…its fractured time frame gets confusing".
The film was the prestigious closing night film at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival and won multiple festival awards. It was released as Mad Dogs and Englishmen in Australia.