Tuesday, November 21, 2006

[1980] ATLANTIC CITY: Hey--it's a noir about the geriatric versions of characters in old noirs. Burt Lancaster is a lifetime hustler who ekes out an existence in AC as a number-runner and manservant to the widow of a gangster, played by Kate Reid. Both of them very much think they're still what they used to be--Reid drops her husband's name at any given opportunity, even though she and Lancaster seem to be the only ones who remember him. And Lancaster--evidently a failed gangster--still thinks the good times are right around the corner. And he turns out to be right! I kept waiting for something awful to happen to the people we like in the movie and it end up with that noir everybody-loses ending, but Malle and John Guare (the screenwriter) showed their characters a lot of kindness by letting them get away with their ill-gotten gains. Most of them, anyway; Susan Sarandon's husband dies in the first half hour. I'm skipping over the plot here--Lancaster comes into possession of a lump of cocaine and it's like the first big score he's ever had, and he's selling it off and finally in possession of some easy money, and of course the underworld wants its cocaine back. Add in Sarandon as an aspiring casino dealer and Lancaster's fantasy object--he keeps wanting her to be his moll or something--and there's your movie. The dialogue was tremendous, especially Reid as the gangster princess and Hollis McLaren as Sarandon's flower child sister. Definitely a must-see for the year 1980; maybe not the most hugely important movie but it told its story very well. And as a New Jersey Studies major it was great to see a movie 1. that looked like it was filmed entirely in New Jersey (thanks for nothing, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle) and 2. actually posited New Jersey as a place people want to go to, not get away from (while also positing Saskatchewan as the place people want to leave. Just as unfairly, I'm sure.)

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