Diner (1982)

Diner (1982)

“We all know most marriages depend on a firm grasp of football trivia.”

While a young man (Steve Guttenberg) in Baltimore prepares to marry his wife if she passes a football trivia quiz, his friend Shrevie (Daniel Stern) muses over newly married life with his wife (Ellen Barkin), and they hang out with their other friends — Boogie (Mickey Rourke), Fenwick (Kevin Bacon), Billy (Tim Daly), and Modell (Paul Reiser) — in a local diner.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Coming of Age
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Friendship
  • Marital Problems
  • Mickey Rourke Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “low-budget nostalgia comedy by writer-director Barry Levinson” — about “a group of young male buddies who hang out at a diner in Baltimore in 1959 at a time they have to make decisions about work, women, [and] their futures” — is responded to more by “female viewers” who perhaps “dated similar flawed, funny characters,” while men may wisely not “wish to identify with guys who have jerk streaks a mile long.” I’m not sure how many women did or still do enjoy this film, but I’m not among them — for exactly the reason Peary provides. While “the diner dialogue has rhythm and is well delivered by the talented cast”:

… it’s not interesting; meanwhile, “the characters [are] dull and unsympathetic until they start tripping over words around females” (at which point I still… find them dull and unsympathetic). Peary notes that “the most original scenes have Daniel Stern hysterically telling off Ellen Barkin for mixing up his precious rock-‘n’-roll collection”:

and “Steve Guttenberg giving his fiancee” (whose face we never see) “a football trivia test to determine if the wedding is still on” — but all these scenes do is reinforce what immature jerks these guys are. Why do we want to spend time around them, again?

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Good use of authentic Baltimore locales

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one time look for its historical relevance as a breakthrough film for many of these young actors (and Levinson as a director).

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Diner (1982)

  1. First viewing (8/15/22). Not must-see. It apparently has ardent fans so it’s something of a cult flick in certain circles.

    It looks great and gets points for effective production and costume design. The songs chosen for the soundtrack and the movie / tv scenes used for ‘ambience’ give it a nice authenticity.

    As Levinson himself would admit, there’s no story here; this is more or less his version of ‘American Graffiti’. It didn’t do well with test audiences but a print was ‘leaked’ to Pauline Kael who promised a rave if the studios released it instead of shelving it – so that helped springboard it into public consciousness. She mainly praised the acting.

    Levinson encouraged improvisation among the cast so perhaps that gives it an added tinge of realism. You could make a drinking game out of the number of times ‘diner’ is said. But the David Mamet-esque guys-being-guys thing gets wearisome (fast) for those who (like me) have difficulty listening to guys with little of consequence to say. Not surprisingly, the emphasis here is on sex, food, football and always being broke. (Riveting, it ain’t.)

    Favorite in the cast: Jessica James in a small role as Guttenberg’s mom. She’s a genuine hoot!

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