“You have reduced me to that most contemptible of creatures — the love-sick swain!”
Gowan McGland (Tom Conti), a well-known but penniless Scottish poet, ekes by on the remnants of his fame, drinks excessively, beds middle-aged housewives, and falls in love with a woman (Kelly McGillis) much younger than himself.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Character Studies
- May-December Romance
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary points out, “many people will not like this film” — indeed, a reviewer for the Chicago Reader called it “the worst kind of screenwriters’ cinema.” But those who enjoy character studies should appreciate Reuben, Reuben on some level, no matter how annoyed they eventually become by Conti’s constant drinking, stealing, womanizing, and self-pitying. According to Vincent Canby of the NY Times, McGland (what a name!) “looks like the human manifestation of a hangover,” someone “who’s great fun to watch but who’d be impossible to share even a county with.” Indeed, despite McGland’s constant dire straits, there’s plenty of humor in the film: McGland’s estranged wife happily exploiting his foibles in a tell-all biography; two middle-aged women making a play for McGland under the table at a fancy restaurant… Though the film’s ending is abrupt, I found it oddly fitting — and we finally find out why Reuben (a local sheepdog absent from most of the story) gets “top billing” in the film’s title.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Tom Conti’s fully realized (if not overly sympathetic) performance as Gowan McGland
- Kelly McGillis, “radiant” in her screen debut as McGland’s lover
No, but it’s recommended.