Friday, November 7, 2008

All Night Long (1981)

Hidden gem, unfortunate title.

Don't let the pedestrian title of this very smart, adult comedy fool you-its a real sleeper and a precursor to films like "Lost In America" and "American Beauty". Long, long overdue on DVD (I'm not even sure if it ever made it to VHS) it is a joy to see the uncut version again after 20 years. Gene Hackman gives one of his best, and most subtle comic performances as a man going through severe mid-life (and mid-career) crisis after he is demoted from corporate climber to night manager of one of his company's retail chain drug stores. Barbra Streisand is the neighbor's wife that Hackman, er, covets (as does his randy teenage son, well played by Dennis Quaid in an early role). I have to strongly disagree with the popular concensus that Streisand was "miscast" in this role. This film is very much an ensemble piece, and for once, Streisand doesn't hog the lens and scream her lines in that grating Brooklyn honk. I find it refreshing to see her go "low key" for a change and let Hackman shine in thier scenes together.

Director Jean-Claude Tramont was even able to talk Streisand into performing a song horribly (and hilariously) off-key, which may be the only time Babs has dropped the legendary ego and poked fun at herself onscreen. I think what the detractors of this film are not "getting", is that this is essentially a European film, in demeanor and pacing, despite its all-American cast. If you're expecting another "What's Up Doc?" or "Owl And The Pussycat", which are much broader, louder comedies, then steer clear of this one. Not necessarily a "bedroom farce", (despite how it sounds) but ultimately an intelligent look at the choices we make in our lives, and the chances you have to take in order to "start over". By D. Hartley

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