Ironically, I found the most compelling portion of the film to be the scenes involving Mickey Rourke (who is damn near unrecognizable to the modern eye) and Ellen Barkin, as well as the prelude featuring Daniel Stern (Marv from Home Alone, wut), which covered Barkin's character's failing marriage to Stern's and her subsequent comfort found in the arms of Rourke. Barkin's acting in these scenes was superb, I should note. Rourke had been the suave playboy up to this point in the film, and seduced Barkin into having sex with him so as to pay off a debt (long spoiler story), but just as he's about to get her to the apartment, he decides it's wrong. The film does a good job of building Rourke up as fairly unscrupulous, so this comes as a bit of a surprise. A couple of other scenes troll modern cinematic expectations well earlier on (the accident and the knife scenes), which I thought was interesting and meta.
One of the highlights of the movie is the authenticity. The cars are classic 1950s, and there is a large slate of songs played mostly via radio that are rather corny by today's standards, but were current then and add to the immersion.
Overall, worth a watch if you're into guy movies or period pieces set in the '50s.
(Full review coming soon)
Well worth a rental.
Diner doesn't have any precise story direction. It explores various characters in the final week of 1959 as they cross over into the adult world, but it doesn't follow a consistent path. Diner simply occurs over the course of various episodes, but this results the story feeling unbalanced and rather insensible. I didn't walk away from Diner having really learned anything from the coming of age experience because the focus was so scattered and everything felt messy. There was quite a few things to take in from Diner which was simply not what I got because when I was trying to figure it out, suddenly the story was somewhere else. I wasn't exactly sure what was happening or why it was because it was always shifting in tones and intentions, and so I didn't find that Diner was a consistent film and stretched on its tedious plot structure for a bit too long over its course of its 105 minute running time.
Also, the story just isn't the most interesting. While Diner has some interesting themes to it which deal with the characters transitioning into adulthood as the world changes around them, the more interesting characters tend to play second fiddle to the less interesting ones. For example, the characters Robert "Boogie" Sheftell and Timothy "Fen" Fenwick Jr. portrayed by Mickey Rourke and Kevin Bacon respectively were the most appealing to me simply because I found them to be the standout actors, but they receive much less screen time than actors like Steve Guttenberg and Daniel Stern who simply fail to establish the same kind of charisma and generally interesting charm that the aforementioned two actors do. The focus in Diner is scattered as it is, but a lot of it isn't really focused on the more interesting characters. And this leaves the 110 minute running time to run even longer and have less impact. Frankly, a lot of the ideas in Diner were more effective back in the day, but by contemporary standards it is merely a series of episodes that have been covered many other times in more interesting context and with more success. Frankly, Diner is a largely long and boring feature which has some entertaining and thought provoking moments but is fairly rudimentary as a whole.
I guess the problem is that in Diner all of the characters go off and do their own thing a lot and there isn't enough focus on all of them interacting as a group, and if that had have been the case then it could have been a more effective experience. But that wasn't what I got, so Diner isn't one of the best coming of age films I've seen.
Although, Diner is a sophisticated film that refuses to fall into predictable territory like a brat pack film and makes the effort to remain an intelligent feature all throughout. Thanks to Barry Levinson, Diner does have some thought provoking scenes. His Academy Award nominated screenplay manages to put some depth into the characters and implores a lot of realism into the story, and frankly I easily walked away from Diner having learned a few things. Barry Levinson's script is an insightful one, and he manages to give a strong treatment to it which establishes that its strongest qualities are capitalised on in Barry Levinson's vision.
Diner is also shot nicely on some appealing locations, and frankly for a low budget film it manages to do quite a bit.
The performances in Diner manage to be one of the main sources of success
Mickey Rourke's youthful charm makes the film a very nostalgic one. Considering the long ride that the actor has taken since then which eventually led to an Academy Award nomination for his flawless lead performance in The Wrestler, to look back at him in Diner, to look at his young face and feel his skills as an actor building and developing is really a treat. In Diner he is arguably the most interesting actor because he manages to put depth into his material and deliver his lines with a sense of genuine realism to it. Mickey Rourke works the material with his best strength, and it is no surprise that his performance is a strong one.
Kevin Bacon is a legendary actor who is one of the best never to have been nominated for an Academy Award, and to look back at him early on and see him interacting with so many other cast members with his natural charisma to make audiences laugh and think is just refreshing. Kevin Bacon's youthful talent was at some of its best in the 1980's, and considering that his career has recently gone through a resurgence, it is great to look back and see where it all started.
Steve Guttenberg whose career was at its highest during the 1980's reminds us why in Diner because his meaningful and effective performance shows him working with mature and serious material without problem. He is key to the success of the cast in Diner, and he manages to work the material naturally without problem.
Daniel Stern and Paul Reiser also manage to make strong supporting efforts as they each hold their own on a screen full of big names and a lot of talent by each contributing something of their own to the role with their respective acting skills.
Ellen Barkin's small amount of screen time manages to utilise some of her better acting skills, so she makes a good supporting presence as part of the cast in Diner.
So although the focus in Diner is all over the place and it feels like the more interesting characters in the film play second fiddle to the less interesting ones, it contains a thought provoking script from Barry Levinson and a talented cast which manages to ensure that its coming of age themes are effective.
Not much needs to be said about Diner.
Written and directed by Barry Levinson, nominated for Best Screenplay and set in Baltimore 1959.
I'll try not to spoil anything, because if you like movies and haven't seen this gem, you must catch it soon. It's funny, poignant and has a spectacular cast.
I can't get enough of Paul Reiser's character, Modell. Good Golly he's funny.
Discussing the concept of evolution, Reiser speaks one of my favorite lines, "The guy who makes up this stuff it's the stupidest thing I've ever heard - people do not come from swamps. They come from Europe."
This line comes from potentially the best post-movie credit sequence I've ever seen (or rather, heard). It's a philosophical comedic audio layover, a bonus diner conversation; an adequate apology for the abrupt freeze-frame ending.
I love how Reiser's constantly hassling Steve Guttenberg's character for rides. They're all such close friends, Reiser manages to never actually ask for the lift, he always gets The Gute to offer.
A young Mickey Rourke is almost unrecognizable in this film. And he delivers a spectacular performance.
Daniel Stern's character is also great, now that I think about it. You know him from Home Alone. His character is such a well-meaning fella. When he argues with his wife over his records, you don't know who to root for, and it'll set your heart strings aquiver.
It can get dusty at times.
Stern also has a great moment with Guttenberg, when he explains that getting married doesn't necessarily make life any easier.
Kevin Bacon's character is, as always, excellently executed. He is like a tightly wound spring, but worth much more than first appears.
The minor character who memorizes the lines from "Sweet Smell of Success," cracks me up every time he interrupts a conversation.
I'm not sure if women will enjoy this film as much as men. The themes seem very masculine; they reflect the subtleties of my interactions with my male friends. I'd be interested to hear if women feel like they really connect with certain aspects of the movie.
One might say Diner is misogynistic.
I say, "Feh!"
One could argue that the pacing is slow at the beginning, but personally, I won't do so.
The only criticism I can muster is about the moment of greatest tension, the pinnacle of the film's conflict. It gets resolved in such a quick fashion it might make your head tilt.
Otherwise, this is a spectacular film.
As always, don't expect too much, and you'll be oh-so-sweetly rewarded.