Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Judy Berlin" (1999, Dir: Eric Mendelsohn)

There's something incredibly unsettling about a movie as thematically uneven as this one. There are powerful moments and some lovely instances of introspection, but the screenwriting is too often hyperbolic and the execution too often excessively sentimental. A worthy idea, but it needed a little... or a lot... more thought.

The acting is very good all around, but each performance is so wildly different from the next that it seems as if each was hijacked from another film. The all-out, farcical gaucherie of Falco's performance doesn't mesh with the near-painful domestic dramedy of Kahn's the thematic tightrope-walking of Barrie's, so that even the most striking acting moments feel strangely dissonant with their surroundings. Madeline Kahn fares the best, although all the women are good. It is very sad that this was her last film - her amazing ability to walk such a fine line between comedy and dramedy has yet to be matched. Bette Henritze is also very good in a small role as an Alzheimer's-afflicted former teacher at Barbara Barrie's character's school.

The females in the cast get the best lines and the best stories - the writing for the men is cliche and over the top (Aaron Harnick's cries of "Mother!" and Bob Dishy's "I hope you understand that I have no idea what I'm doing..." speech).

Photography is interesting but the B&W "experimentation" is clearly lifted from many 60s and 70s independent styles. An interesting watch all around, but not a particularly satisfying one. C+

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