Sunday, February 17, 2013

Old Boyfriends (1979)



Old Boyfriends is a painfully dull movie made by a number of people who should have known better. Screenwriting brothers Leonard Schrader and Paul Schrader, who are best known separately and apart for making dark dramas with complicated male protagonists, ventured way outside their comfort zones to create this unconvincing story about a troubled young woman working through an identity crisis by tracking down her exes. Talia Shire, who was at this point in her career embarking on a series of shockingly unsuccessful star vehicles in between appearing in Rocky sequels, delivers what can only be described as a non-performance. Bland to the extreme of barely registering on camera, she alternates between moping, whining, and fading into the woodwork while other actors do all the heavy lifting. Also, there’s a reason first-time director Joan Tewksbury, best known as the screenwriter of Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975), gravitated to television after this movie tanked; her inability to generate and sustain interest is stunning. Even the movie’s score is misguided, because composer David Shire contributes music so gloomy and overwrought you’d think he was generating accompaniment for a Holocaust saga. What little notoriety Old Boyfriends has probably stems from John Belushi’s appearance in a supporting role. (Shire’s character visits two exes, played by Richard Jordan and Belushi, before visiting the younger brother, played by Keith Carradine, of a third ex.) Belushi incarnates a dramatic riff on his Animal House character of an obnoxious man-child, and the meanness he channels into his performance almost brings the movie to life for a while. He also sings “Jailhouse Rock,” just a year before he performed the same song in The Blues Brothers. Alas, Shire’s vapidity and the script’s contrived rhythms prevent even the Belushi scenes from soaring. In fact, nearly the only segment of movie that really works is a fun but peripheral bit with Buck Henry as a laconic private eye.

Old Boyfriends: LAME

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