Sunday, February 24, 2013

Yesterday’s Hero (1979)



          This one’s about as random as it gets—a British sports drama written by lowbrow novelist Jackie Collins, costarring future Deadwood heavy Ian McShane as an alcoholic soccer player and quintessential ’70s bimbo Suzanne Somers, of Three’s Company fame, as the disco singer whose love saves the soccer player from his self-destructive spiral. No surprise, this bizarre mixture of elements doesn’t work. And yet Yesterday’s Hero is borderline watchable for much of its running time, because McShane gives a committed, hard-edged performance as a one-time superstar ravaged by age, drinking, and ennui. Whenever he’s onscreen, the movie is interesting and even, as much as possible given the shortcomings of Collins’ trite script, vital.
          Predictably, the weakest scenes involve Somers, though her mediocre acting isn’t what drags the movie down. Instead, it’s her singing—or, to be more specific, the terrible scenes in which her character sings. Yesterday’s Hero features a handful of awful pop/disco songs, most of which are performed at nearly full length. Some of the tunes are integrated into the story, illustrating how Somers’ character makes her living, but others merely appear on the soundtrack. Somers and costar Adam Faith, who plays the singing partner of Somers’ character, embarrass themselves by flailing around the screen while chirping inept lyrics over beds of overproduced, grade-Z music.
          Oddly, however, the narrative contrivance that justifies the inclusion of the musical material could have been a strong element. Faith’s character is a rock star who buys a soccer team as a lark, so Collins was presumably inspired by Rod Stewart’s widely publicized support of Glasgow’s Celtic football club. The juxtaposition of the pop and sports worlds could have created interesting dynamics, but Collins and director Neil Leifer failed to exploit these possibilities—the pop scenes and the sports scenes exist separately, and ne’er the twain shall meet. In the absence of coherence and freshness, viewers have to make do with a handful of strong McShane scenes and a lot of middling nonsense. (For what it’s worth, the curvaceous Somers, no fool about what she brings to the table, bounces up and down a lot during the singing scenes.)

Yesterday’s Hero: FUNKY

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