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Dustin Hoffman inhabits Lenny Bruce with nervy energy in Bob Fosse's richly stylized telling of the pioneering comedian's career and downfall. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Controversial comedian Lenny Bruce (Dustin Hoffman) begins his career telling bad jokes to bored audiences in the 1950s, but can't repress his desire to unleash edgier material. When he does, he begins a one-man campaign to break down social hypocrisy, and his groundbreaking stage act propels him to cult-hero status. When authorities ban Lenny's act for obscenity, he begins a downward spiral of drugs, sex and debt, aided by his bombshell wife, a stripper named Honey (Valerie Perrine).

Cast & Crew

Jan Miner
Sally Marr
Stanley Beck
Artie Silver
Gary Morton
Sherman Hart
Guy Rennie
Jack Goldstein
Frankie Man
Baltimore Comic
Mark Harris
Defense Attorney
Lee Sandman
Second San Francisco Judge
Susan Malnick
Kitty (age 12)
Martin Begley
San Francisco Judge
Phil Philbin
New York Plainclothesman
Ted Sorel
New York Attorney
Clarence Thomas
New York Attorney
Mike Murphy
New York Prosecutor
Buddy Boylan
Marty (uncredited)
Mickey Gatlin
San Francisco Policeman
Judy LaScala
Chorus Girl
Bob Fosse
Director
Julian Barry
Screenwriter
Robert Greenhut
Associate Producer
David V. Picker
Executive Producer
Ralph Burns
Original Music
Bruce Surtees
Cinematographer
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Critic Reviews for Lenny

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (1) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (3)

  • Dustin Hoffman, good as he is in the title role, is never quite permitted to put together an organic, three-dimensional character.

    April 29, 2018 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The edition of Alan Heim - who would win his Oscar with the next Fosse film, All that Jazz (1979) - allows the comedic routines of Lenny Bruce to be contrasted with the reaction of the audience in the dark below the stage" . In Spanish, in Letras Libres

    December 29, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • A mess -- precisely because it is neither fact nor imaginative fiction. Fosse and Barry never figured out for themselves how this nothingy little comic grew into a heroic figure and, rightly or wrongly, a legend

    July 28, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Lenny the film is fragmented because Lenny the man didn't cohere. And Dustin Hoffman plays this incoherent man with insecure, manic glee.

    July 1, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Dustin Hoffman gives one of his best performances, and the choice to shoot the film in matted black and white is bold and beautiful.

    April 6, 2020 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Most damaging of all... is that the film lacks a coherent potnt of view.

    December 10, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Lenny

  • Nov 21, 2013
    As a comedian well before his time, Bruce is often lionized by comedians who came after him but without Hoffman's depiction of Bruce, we likely would know little about him. Hoffman provides the appropriate dramatic weight for the ultimately tragic figure.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 15, 2011
    Lenny Bruce: Did you know that Eleanor Roosevelt gave Lou Gehrig the clap?  "Lenny's Time Has Finally Come." Lenny is a decent biopic of an interesting man. It has its problems though. It is extremely fragmented and poorly paced. Overall it is still well worth a watch though, because of an amazing performance from Dustin Hoffman. He plays the controversial comic with great power.  I think I would have liked this movie much more had I not seen Star 80 first. Star 80 and Lenny are pretty much identical structurally, but Star 80 is more involving and more entertaining. Both are made in fragments, with interviews in the middle of scenes to make it feel like a documentary. Both also take a not so glamourous look at a form of media or show business and both end in tragedy.  Lenny is interesting because we get fragments of Lenny's life intermixed with actors playing people he knew giving interviews, and also Lenny doing his stand up routine when he was young and old. As he is old, he stops telling jokes and more or less tells the plot of the movie. He tells about how he got arrested all the time for saying obscene jokes and making obscene gestures. He reads police reports and says why everything he has gotten arrested for is stupid.  Today Lenny doesn't seem all that controversial. If you watch the comics of today side by side Lenny; he would be considered the cleaner comic. This film isn't great, but it is still an interesting look at an interesting man. Fosse would take this structure and make an even better movie later in his career.
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • Sep 27, 2011
    Dustin Hoffman teams up with one of the most tragic figures in modern moviemaking, Bob Fosse, to bring us a biopic of one of the greatest, most influential and most controversial stand-up comedians of our age, Lenny Bruce. First and foremost, Hoffman as Bruce was one of the greatest casting decisions of this film. He plays his part with cunning, energy, cynicism and reality, truly taking the trials and tribulations of Bruce to razor-edge effect but also including in great detail and care in appropriately displaying the extent of Bruce's darkness as a person and his many foul actions toward others in his life (friend, foe, and family). Fosse's direction is not perfect, however it is conducted with such an objective point of view in such a documentary style that it is hard to be sucked in by the realism of the film. Julian Barry's screenplay based off his own play is sharp, quick-witted and as honest as the material given. Though the screenplay shirks on much of the material needed to explain the overall controversy of Bruce's career and lifestyle, it makes up in drama and human connection of all others associated with Bruce's life and eventual tragic death. You feel with Bruce as these things happen, but at the same time find many reasons why Bruce is so hard to like (his frequent adultery, excess and harsh drug abuse that dragged many of his family down into the drain with him). A fabulous film that deserves far more recognition than it is given it in contemporary America. Along with George Carlin and Richard Pryor, who would emerge about a decade later observing the same language and hypocrisies of the American attitude and mass media in the world of censorship (large or small), Lenny Bruce is one of the most important influences of the rights of free speech and the American culture as a whole, and this film does him the justice he deserves, though it still could have pushed the envelope even more.
    Matthew R Super Reviewer
  • Mar 21, 2011
    The lines between fact and fiction blurred again and again, making a point to show Bruce's extreme drug use, profanity, and Bruce's life, as some tawdry jaunt into a life of drugs and court dates, his act the backdrop. Bruce was more than his act, and this is exemplified by his emotional scenes with his druggie, stripper wife Honey, and his care and concern for his daughter, Kitty. Throughout the film snippets of Bruce's act are thrown in (performed by Hoffman) to show the influences of his life on his act, speaking out against racism, sexism, and censorship in the 60's, coming off trials on Communism and the X-rating of Midnight Cowboy. Though the performances of Hoffman and Perrine were genuine, heartfelt, and laced with a brand of humor that is realistic and a true portrayal, at times there was frivolity that could have been hampered. Bruce comes off as complex, and that is what he was, so to Hoffman I give considerable kudos.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer

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