Sunday, July 18, 2021

Slow Dancing in the Big City (1978)

          If not for its posh production values and the pedigree of its director, the cutesy romance Slow Dancing in the Big City would come across like a mildly diverting but altogether forgettable TV movie. The narrative is slight in the extreme, blending an unpersuasive love story with melodramatic subplots, and if the filmmakers imagined they were rendering some sort of intoxicating modern-day fairy tale, they fell short of that goal. Nonetheless, Paul Sorvino’s affable leading performance goes a long way toward making the picture watchable, because he’s wonderfully cast as a rough-hewn but kindhearted New York City columnist sorta-kinda modeled after the inimitable Jimmy Breslin. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that playing the same character in a more consequential story, such as a political drama or better still a whimsical comedy, could have provided a star-making moment for Sorvino. Instead, Slow Dancing in the Big City flopped in theaters just a month after a better film costarring Sorvino, Bloodbrothers, suffered a similar fate. Thereafter, it was back to the character-actor grind.
          Lou Friedlander (Sorvino) enjoys a pleasant life as a minor New York celebrity thanks to his column featuring stories of everyday city people, but he’s bored in his casual relationship with a dowdy waitress. When he meets a dancer named Sarah (Anne Ditchburn), Lou becomes infatuated. Meanwhile, Lou writes stories about Marty (Hector Mercado), a preteen Latino who may be a musical prodigy but lives in a rough ghetto. Lou dumps the waitress so he can woo the years-younger Sarah, who subsequently experiences a serious medical crisis. And so it goes from there. Filmed in slick but uninspired fashion by John G. Avildsen, notching his first movie since winning an Oscar for Rocky (1976), Slow Dancing in the Big City has intermittent credibility. Since Ditchburn was a professional dancer, she’s impressive whenever she’s moving, less so whenever she’s acting. Yet Sorvino fits comfortably into his role, infusing an uncomplicated character with sweetness and warmth while avoiding mawkishness. The main problem, of course, is that it’s impossible to believe Sarah returns Lou’s affections, so the romantic stuff—which is the heart of the movie—rings false. Lesser problems include dreary pacing and a failure to flesh out supporting characters.

Slow Dancing in the Big City: FUNKY


Guy Callaway said...

Ann Ditchburn: what a career she had after this modest film! I think her last name might of been a stumbling block?
Let's be honest, though: who doesn't have a man-crush on studly Paul Sorvino....?
The casting sunk this project.

Unknown said...

I have a soft spot for this film. Paul Sorvino was outstanding as a thinly veiled Jimmy Breslin.Breslin , who was in the running to play Popeye Doyle in The French Connection ( as well as Jackie Gleason),made his acting debut ,also in 1978,in the still born If Ever I See You Again, a rushed followup to director Joseph Brooks sleeper hit You Light Up My Life, , released only 8 months beforw

Adie said...

Than you for your hard work

Barry Miller said...

The compromised disaster that the now-classic "Saturday Night Fever" may have become if John Avildsen had remained as it's director.

The reason he was fired from "Saturday Night Fever" by both producer Robert Stigwood and John Travolta was fundamentally unavoidable: besotted by his brand-new "Rocky" Oscar win, he wanted to immediately soften and sentimentalize "Fever" into another like-minded urban fairy tale of sweet-souled romanticism and unalloyed redemption, rather than remain faithful to the bleak and brutal existentialism of screenwriter Norman Wexler's hardcore and unapologetically profane social realism. In the bitter aftermath of his departure, he went off to make the movie he essentially wanted "Saturday Night Fever" to be, which was "Slow Dancing In The Big City" and unfortunately crashed headlong into his short-sighted and stubbornly saccharine sensibilities.