Tag Archives: 2012 Reviews

VHS only: Light of Day ***1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on January 14, 2012)

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From off the streets of Cleveland comes…that rare Paul Schrader film that actually doesn’t culminate in a blood-spattered catharsis. Rather, this 1987 character study concerns a pair of blue-collar siblings (Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett) struggling to make a name for themselves in the music biz. That being said, this is still Paul Schrader, so don’t expect a bubbly musical-comedy (a la That Thing You Do!). In fact, the film is more like an American version of one of those gritty, working-class “kitchen sink” dramas that came out of Britain in the 60s, with intense performances from a  fine cast.

Jett, naturally, does her own singing and playing; but it’s worth noting that Fox and the other actors portraying “The Barbusters” do so as well. That fact, coupled with the no-nonsense performances, adds up to one of the most realistic narrative films I’ve ever seen about what it’s really like to eke out a living in the rock’n’roll trenches; i.e., these guys actually look and sound like a bar band. Gena Rowlands is a standout as Jett and Fox’s mother (she is also the most “Schrader-esque” character ). Bruce Springsteen penned the title song (which originally was to be a little number called “Born in the USA”…which the Boss wisely decided to keep for himself).

VHS only: Heartbreakers ***1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on January 14, 2012)

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A hidden gem, this 1984 drama is one of my favorite “L.A. stories”. Director-writer Bobby Roth delivers an absorbing character study about two 30-something pals who are both going through big cha-cha-cha-changes in their personal and professional lives. Peter Coyote is excellent as a petulant man-child named Blue, a starving artist who specializes in quasi-pornographic, fetishistic female portraiture (his character is based in part on artist Robert Blue).

Blue is nurturing a broken heart; his long-time girlfriend (Kathryn Harrold), tired of waiting for him to grow up, has recently dumped him. Blue’s friend Eli (Nick Mancuso), while much more together financially (he’s a wildly successful super-Yuppie who lives in a dream bachelor pad with the requisite lofty L.A. Basin view) is feeling equally unfulfilled emotionally. With his male model looks and shiny toys, it’s not like he has any problem with hookups; he just can’t seem to find The One (yes, I know- how many nights of empty sex with an endless parade of beautiful women can one guy stand?).

However, just when the commiserating duo’s love lives are looking absolutely hopeless, they both meet The One. Unfortunately, she is the same One (Carole Laure). The plot thickens, and the friendship is about to be sorely tested. Formulaic as it sounds, I’ve always really liked this film; I think it’s a sharply observed look at modern love (and sex) in the Big City. Max Gail (best known for his role on TV’s Barney Miller) is great here, as is Carol Wayne (in her last film).