Mr. Saturday Night Reviews
It charts the career of Buddy Young Jnr (Crystal - "Analyze This", "Forget Paris", "City Slickers", "Deconstructing Harry"), now an ageing, washed up stand-up, and looks back at his career through a series of retrospective flashbacks. He and his brother Stan (Paymer - "The Hurricane", "Payback", "The American President", "Quiz Show"), have always been entertaining people. As kids, their post-dinner comedy routine delighted the family. But when, in their teens, it came to performing at a local amateur night, their double act falls apart as Stan gets stagefright and young Buddy is left to delight the crowd alone.
Subsequently Buddy becomes the star, and Stan works tirelessly as his agent and co-writer. But the relationship is not perfect, and Buddy's abrasive, unreasonable, cruel and arrogant manner strain not just that relationship, but also that which he has with his daughter, Susan (Mara - "K-PAX", "A Civil Action", "Bound"). It also becomes a major factor in his somewhat muted success as much of his potential is never realised. Now Buddy wants just one more shot at success, but it's questionable whether or not he has learnt enough from his past to make it a reality.
Although "Mr Saturday Night" is full of laughs and one-liners, it can never be confused as a comedy. This is a pure personal drama - a study of human pursuits such as ambition and love, and traits like jealousy, bitterness and loyalty. Crystal's character is hard to like most of the time. Now a grumpy, middle-aged man who half-lives in reality about his lack of status in the world of showbusiness, he barely hangs on to the drive that made him a star in the first place.
Instantly it becomes clear that the audience will cheer for his likeable, under-appreciated and hard-working brother, who has taken years of mental abuse from Buddy. The irony is that Buddy has always taken advice from Stan. Stan repeatedly tells him through his career that "the other jacket is funnier" and makes suggestions about which gags he should and shouldn't do.
Buddy's relationships are fascinating. He undoubtedly loves his wife Elaine (Warner - "The Puppet Masters", "Doc Hollywood", "Flatliners") unconditionally, and it seems that he has treated her well in their time together. But for some reason his children never get the same treatment. We see him yelling at his young daughter Susan, and his relationship with her as an adult is non-existent (she's now a "twice divorced, middle aged drug addict" according to Buddy). His son doesn't even feature in the movie and Buddy tells us that he "lives wherever I'm not". Meanwhile, Stan retires to Florida but Buddy continues to drag him back into his desperate battle to get back in front of an audience.
It's not just his family though. Annie Wells (Hunt - TV's "Mad About You", "As Good As it Gets", "Cast Away"), a young agent who is eager to get Buddy back on track, takes a truck load of abuse from a frustrated Buddy. For some reason though, she believes in him and comes back for more.
At times it seems like Buddy might be just unlucky. After getting his own TV show, he sees the ratings slip when the show comes up against Davy Crockett on another channel. He ignores Stan's warnings on ridiculing Davy Crockett in a monologue and subsequently the show's sponsors pull the plug. Back in present day, one of his biggest fans, Hollywood director Larry Meyerson, wants to cast him in his next big movie, but Buddy flips when Walter Matthau takes his part and he is offered a much smaller one. Despite it still being a great opportunity, he abuses Meyerson and walks away. "You took every bad break you ever got and made it worse", Stan tells him.
One of the major failings of the movie is in the make-up department. Crystal was 44, Paymer 38, when this movie was made. Making them look in their early twenties is passable, but it's their elder years where things go slightly wrong. Paymers looks decent enough I suppose but that's only comparable to Crystal who looks like a man with make-up on. As for Julie Warner, the pretty brunette was 27 and her sixty-something look is fairly laughable.
But leaving this aside, the performances make up (excuse the pun) for all that. David Paymer was surprisingly, but deservedly, nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. As Stan, he delivers a masterful performance, a spot-on portrayal of a timid and hesitant man working hard in the shadow of a more dominant personality.
Crystal is both harsh and hilarious but sometimes you wonder if anyone could be as cold-hearted as he is. At times you feel that his wretched treatment of those who annoy him is a little too over-the-top, perhaps exploiting his character as just that, rather than a real human being.
Warner is warm and likeable, Helen Hunt plays a convincing agent with a genuine streak, and in her small role as Susan Young, Mary Mara does a decent job.
I wouldn't say that "Mr Saturday Night" is an expert character study by any means, but if you assume its aim is to entertain and touch in just a small way, then it certainly achieves that.
Mr. Saturday Night is not exactly a comedy, it is a film about a comedian. It cannot be denied that it is funny in parts, but at others it is also dramatic and sentimental. The tone is never precisely consistent, but there is always a sense of charm. The problem however is the fact that the plot structure does not become steady for a long time. Mr. Saturday Night largely features the same comic act repeated over the course of the story again and again. The film attempts to disguise this beneath the structure which jumps to several different points in the life of Buddy Young Jr., but this can prove frustrating because there is no steady consistency. As the film focuses more on its second act the structure ends up more stable, but until then everything is inconsistent in piecing together the story, largely because the story is a recount of the rise and fall of the protagonist from his later period in life. Frankly, Mr. Saturday Knight is an oddly structured reconstruction of the life of its titular protagonist which renders the notion of consistency rather ineffective. Ultimately, Mr. Saturday Night is a really scattered film, and for his debut as a director, Billy Crystal is not up to the challenge of handling a non-chronological plot sturcture with finesse.
However, his film is a strong debut because of how he brings his writing to life. As scattered as his film is, Mr. Satuday Night has a strong screenplay to it which has interesting characters and an undeniable sense of passion to it. I found that Buddy Young Jr. Was a funny character, but also that he was a very sympathetic one because as the story progresses we see his larger than life persona broken down in favour of his true identity as a human being. Though the structure makes this development inconsistent, the work of Billy Crystal works to ensure that the meaning is all there. The screenplay in Mr. Saturday Night explores the concept of Hollywood and what it is to be famous, as well as how it affects the relationships between father and daughter or brothers with both touching sentimentality and a sophisticated sense of humour about things.
The value in having Billy Crystal as the director of Mr. Saturday Night comes from the fact that the film is clearly a very personal project for him. Billy Crystal brings it to life with a sense of style as well with the colourful production design and costumes effectively conveying the time period of the film and its settings convincingly. The cinematography captures it all very nicely because the angles are very theatrical in the way they alternate between Buddy Young Jr. and his audience, therefore capturing the scale of his success. And during the more intricate dramatic scenes of the film, the shots get really close up with the faces of the cast as a means of capturing every little aspect of their emotional state, really challenging the cast to put a lot of character into their facial expressions. They work alongside it really well, and the entire time the musical score is able to illuminate their performances by emphasizing the atmosphere to the point that all the humour and sentimentality is brought out of the material very nicely.
Frankly, Mr. Saturday Night is a stylish film with characters that I really loved, and I credit the actors which making this statement true.
Billy Crystal's leading performance is what really carries Mr. Saturday Night. In the titular role, Billy Crystal keeps things consistently funny with a very charismatic peformance. He sinks so deeply into the role that the comic styles of the character come to him instinctively which he delivers without flinching. His voice articulation is very dedicated to ensuring that he presents the humour with his best level of spirit, and it really is a hilarious effort on his behalf. But Buddy Young Jr. is so much more than just a funny man, he is a human being with insecurities and flaws which he slowly shows more of as the film develops. This shows Billy Crystal balancing his talents for comedy with genuine dramatic passion, and it is a thoroughly beautiful performance. I haven't seen him do much, but I feel like this is one of the best performances of his career because he left me laughing and feeling for him too, and his chemistry with the surrounding cast. Billy Crystal's hard work as an actor under his own guide as director and writer of Mr. Saturday Night pays him a lot of credit, and it leaves me wanting to see more of his work.
David Paymer is also wonderful. Being one of the most important characters at the heart of the story, David Paymer is responsible for bringing a lot of drama into the narrative. In the role of Stan Young, David Paymer keeps the drama flowing through the way he approaches his character gently, conveying both a love for his brother Buddy Young Jr. and a sense of frustration at all the sucess and failure that Buddy Young Jr. drags him through as an agent. David Paymer's sensibly restrained approach to the drama makes the sentimentality of Mr. Saturday Night all the more valuable, and his chemistry with Billy Crystal is truly wonderful.
Julie Warner puts in a touching effort as well, and a young Helen Hunt works alongside Billy Crystal very nicely.
So Mr. Saturday Night is a rather scattered film in terms of structure, but the genuine passion from Billy Crystal as a writer and director brings the material to life while the performances of him and David Paymer ensure that the feature is ultimately both touching and funny.
The Cider House Rules is a very confused movie, and yet also very predictable at the same time. Any movie that manages to pull both those off simultaneously deserves at least a 4.
Patton would be an average movie if it weren't for George C. Scott's epic performance, which I never could have guessed would be as good as it was until I saw it for myself (despite all the hype and all). A wonderful performance, one of the best in all of film-making history. Very genuine, we see a real man here, with many complicated dimensions, just like the rest of us. A refreshingly solid film.
The Hours also could have been a little better, but Nicole Kidman is so good she's unrecognizable (no that's not a slam), and nearly every character in the movie gets a chance to show off his or her stuff. Ed Harris is great (again), Meryl Streep is great (again), Julianne Moore gets the job done, Jeff Daniels even in his brief couple of scenes is very convincing (after seeing this and "The Squid and the Whale," I have to just sit back and wonder when the academy will nod in his direction... it's only a matter of time if he keeps this kind of work up). The writing is a little cheesy, but we get past it because the actors and actresses do a brilliant job of hiding it as best as they possibly can, and give us a very good film.
Wild at Heart is another slightly confused film. Lynch's constant emphasis on degrading women is starting to get to me a little bit, but yet it always seems to work to a certain extent in each of his films. This one I think it was the least necessary of the films of his I've seen (Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet), but then again Laura does seem drawn to these kinds of roles (see "Kalifornia"). The plot is very strangely constructed, and I can't really tell you who the antagonist was, although I'm sure Lynch would have us believe it was the man who gets his head blown off at the end of the film. The reason I give it a 6 is because the intensity and the raw emotion of the relationship is built with a lot of strength. There is a powerful closeup of "peanut"'s eyes at the end of the movie, and after all of the sex they've had, the silly hard rock which they dance to together, the struggles with the law they've suffered, the intrusion of other evil characters, we finally see what Cage has been seeing in Laura the whole movie, in the most sincere and unexpected way. Strong sense of intimacy there, even though the means to getting to that portrayal of intimacy were a little bizarre at times.