“Now it’s all so goddamn legal.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that playwright “John Guare’s exceptional, witty script is full of believable, interesting types — all hoping for that one shot at happiness.” He notes that Guare and Malle’s “major theme is reflected in the coupling of Lancaster and Sarandon,” whose “union serves as a metaphor for the present-day mixing of the old and new in Atlantic City”; he points out they “make a dynamic screen couple.” Finally, Peary notes that the film features “a nice choice of locations,” with “Malle’s eye for detail… as usual, impeccable.”
Peary doesn’t specifically call out performances in his GFTFF review, but he does nominate both Lancaster and Sarandon as Best Actor and Actress in his Alternate Oscars book. They’re perfectly cast, nicely complementing one another in terms of personality, grit, and desire for the finer things in life.
Speaking of this, when we first see Sarandon re-encountering her low-life husband — who not only cheated on her, but impregnated her impressionable sister! — we wonder what it says about Sarandon that she’s come to this sorry place in her personal life.
However, we soon learn that she made bad choices given few choices in her small Canadian town, and is now on a self-determined path to correct that. Meanwhile, seeing shabby but elegant Lancaster ordered around by a shrewish old woman:
… makes his accidental turn towards increased cash flow seem hopeful, despite our knowing it can’t end well given the involvement of brutal drug dealers.
The supporting cast nicely rounds out the story, with Joy and McLaren — once again playing a pregnant young woman, as she did in Outrageous! (1977) — believable as the clueless and hopelessly naive young couple who set the plot in motion; Reid — perhaps best known for her role as Dr. Ruth Leavitt in The Andromeda Strain (1977) — rather hilarious in a role that allows her to morph from nag to caretaker:
… and Michel Piccoli in a small role as Sarandon’s worldly instructor.
Malle’s action-packed yet character-driven drama has held up well, and remains well worth a look.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)