“Why not me? Why not? A guy can get anything he wants as long as he pays the price.”
Response to Peary’s Review:
It’s difficult at first to know how to react to Pupkin (De Niro is in top form), who is single-minded in his devotion to “making it” as an entertainer, but utterly out of touch with the reality of what such an endeavor entails — especially given that the “reality” of achieving any kind of fame in show business, no matter how fleeting, is so nigh impossible that resorting to drastic measures may actually make some kind of sense. Peary and countless other critics give away the fact that Pupkin ultimately “triumphs” in his goals (making it on to Jerry Langford’s show), so I’ll mention it as well — and truth be told, this ending may very well be the only one that could have worked. No matter how much of a “despicable leech” Pupkin is, he’s also undeniably pathethic — a true loser who perhaps (perhaps!) deserves his chance in the limelight, if only as evidence of his sheer gumption and warped savvy.
Several “big names” were considered for the role of Jerry Langford (including Frank Sinatra, Orson Welles, Dick Cavett, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Johnny Carson), but Lewis was an inspired casting coup, given his real-life designation as the “king of comedy”. Meanwhile, Bernhard (in her screen debut) is simply hilarious as Pupkin’s partner-in-crime, a deluded poor-little-rich-girl whose entire identity revolves around being Langford’s “number one fan”; her interactions with Langford while he’s taped up in her house are rollicking. Indeed, by this point in the story, the film’s bitterly humorous sensibility has emerged more strongly than ever, as it becomes especially clear that Scorsese is aiming for satirical laughs, and won’t leave us stranded in a sea of purely icky discomfort. Pupkin and Masha (Bernhard) may be two of the most pathetic individuals in existence, but we all — film fanatics among us! — possess a certain amount of this quality ourselves; Scorsese’s gift here is in allowing us to feel a measure of empathy with two characters whose very actions are the epitome of obnoxious delusion.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)