Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bobby Deerfield (1977)


Two Hollywood heavyweights famous for intellectualizing their work succumb to bad habits in Bobby Deerfield, a plodding romantic drama without enough narrative substance to support its heavy themes. Ostensibly the story of a racecar driver mired in existential crisis, the big-budget misfire gets lost in a maze of pretentious dialogue and vague characterization. Despite all their obvious effort to craft something surpassingly sensitive, producer-director Sydney Pollack and director Al Pacino ended up making something utterly artificial: The storytelling lacks the depth found in Pollack’s best dramas, and Pacino’s performance is so internalized it validates every criticism about self-indulgence ever lobbed his way. Bobby Deerfield is especially disappointing because Pacino and Pollack should have comprised a dream team for fans of thoughtful movies. Based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque and written for the screen by the literate humanist Alvin Sargent, Bobby Deerfield begins with narcissistic Formula One driver Bobby Deerfield (Pacino) watching a nasty crash that injures one driver and takes the life of another. Jarred by the realization that his career involves courting death, Bobby starts wandering around in an angst-ridden haze, eventually visiting the hospital where the surviving driver is recuperating. While there, Bobby meets a fellow troubled soul, Lillian (Marthe Keller), who has a whole different set of issues with human mortality. Even with Pollack’s consummate skill for constructing love stories, the dynamic between Bobby and Lillian holds zero interest. Bobby’s such a cipher it’s impossible to care whether he finds love, and Lillian’s an ice queen—thus, since their interaction is the whole movie (aside from a few moderately distracting driving scenes), Bobby Deerfield is a 124-minute spiral into a black hole of downbeat boredom. The movie is skillfully made and the acting is strong, within the limitations set by the murky writing, but who cares? Digging the good stuff from the muck simply isn’t worth the effort.

Bobby Deerfield: LAME

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