Monday, July 4, 2011

Yanks (1979)

Although it boasts crisp performances, interesting subject matter, lavish production values, and sensitive direction by John Schlesinger, the World War II ensemble romance Yanks is a chore to watch, because the characterizations and storyline aren’t compelling enough to sustain the movie’s bloated running time—two hours and 18 minutes is a bit windy for a piffle, no matter how handsomely made. Exploring relationships between American soldiers and the residents of the ravaged England the GIs occupied during the early 1940s, the picture focuses on Matt (Richard Gere), an enlisted man who falls in love with a British store clerk (Lisa Eichhorn), and John (William Devane), an officer who carries on an extramarital affair with an aristocratic volunteer nurse (Vanessa Redgrave). If you think that sounds like the set-up for a maudlin soap opera, then you’ve lit upon the problem: With its anguished goodbye scenes, tender romantic encounters, and violin-drenched soundtrack, Yanks is an intelligent but syrupy melodrama. There’s not a whit of battlefield action in the movie, so it’s all about the unexpected unions lovers form during wartime. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a WWII chick flick, shouldn’t this sort of thing evoke some sort of emotional reaction, instead of just unspooling in glossy monotony? Everything in the movie looks great, from the meticulous period details to the shining faces of young beauties (male and female alike), but it’s all so trite. As for the actors, Devane and Redgrave perform with chilly professionalism, while Gere and Eichhorn generate a bit more heat. Gere tries too hard, however, forcing intensity when it doesn’t come naturally, so he’s somewhat awkward, and although Eichhorn is at the height of her youthful beauty, she simply doesn’t have the magnetism required for a movie of this scale. Yanks means well enough, and it’s quite watchable on a scene-by-scene basis, but the gulf between its slight narrative and its epic production values results in a lot of fuss over nothing.

Yanks: FUNKY

No comments: