But first, a brief yet somewhat long missive on an unintentionally hilarious piece of crap (Though some folks feel nostalgic towards it, I've found) I came across one early morning recently. The fact that I didn't watch the entire thing (I do have some standards) is all that kept this from being a separate post.
Four Friends stars Craig Wasson (one of the many next big things in movies who ended up not being very big at all) who plays a young Yugoslavian immigrant named Danny whose home life can be best described as "The basketball scene in The Great Santini, minus the affection". The other three friends are a jock, the obligatory fat kid and the girl all three of them fall for. She is played (rather poorly) by Jodi Thelan who only did a few other movies after this. There is also a dying crippled kid Danny is friends with whose family plays into the second act of the movie.
His home life is a tepid, unpleasant shambles but his love life is in even worse shape as the girl he has the hots for ends up with two of his other pals before finally getting together with him after the requisite "Oh god, the 70's nearly killed me with the drugs and all" routine these types of movies tend to trot out. He also has a wedding to a rich girl whose father kills her and maims him after the wedding before shooting himself (there are one or two other rather tasteless details I won't go into for the sake of brevity).
Lois Smith plays the mother of the bride (and the crippled dying kid who kicks off while Danny is recuperating after the shooting) and has one moment after the shooting that was supposed to be dramatic but ends up being one of the funniest things I've ever seen in an ostensibly serious movie. Loud wails of grief work just fine when there is a build. When it comes out of left field in an otherwise quiet scene, not so much. I'm also not sure she was supposed to be blind for the entire movie but she sure as hell is in her last scene.
The film is set against the backdrop of the 60's/70's turmoil and there have been many movies that dealt with that era and the troubles between the older and younger generations quite well. This is not one of them (how the hell it got good reviews when it first came out is beyond me). The characters alternate between ridiculous (Wasson's father in this movie comes off like a cross between DeNiro in Raging Bull and Robert Duvall in The Great Santini, hence the reference above) and repulsively unlikable (the audience would feel for Wasson if he wasn't such a mopey bore all the damn time). The fact that the performances are laughably terrible (some of the actors here are good in other things, must have been something in the water) doesn't help matters much.
Four Friends is one of those films that feels content to be a simple series of vignettes that show a tapestry of the lives of its characters which can work under the right circumstances. Unfortunately, nothing good happens to them at any point and the few small rays of light are quickly dimmed by ridiculous circumstances poorly written and played out. The last scene of the movie takes place at a nighttime bonfire on the beach and with the way the film played out to that point, I'm shocked the huge gust of wind that kicks up at the end didn't incinerate the rest of the cast, small children included, as the credits rolled.
Arthur Penn directed this movie and it is a far cry from the quality of Bonnie and Clyde. Hell, the film he did previous to this, The Missouri Breaks worked better and that was a rather tepid western pitting Jack Nicholson against a very bored (but admittedly entertaining) Marlon Brando.
As noted, the film plays out in the early 60's and ends up in the late 70's. For a better microcosm of that period of time, you could just listen to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire". It's about 112 minutes shorter and a hell of a lot better written. That's not a perfect analogy, I'll grant you but it makes more sense than most of the film.
Jeez, that was so bad I need an aspirin...
And with that prologue done (I know, it's like Lord of the Rings minus the budget, story, and effects but we do have an all-star cast), we can now move onto the main event.
One of the things you acquire being a movie junkie is a certain sixth sense when it comes to certain things. You know that old saying "Never judge a book by its cover"? Same goes for movies. One of the amusing/frustrating things video companies will do (and still do to this day) is take an early film of a well known actor and splash their name on the cover nice and big in order to boost hypothetical sales. Sometimes it turns out to be the actor has a leading role and the film just dropped off the radar, sometimes it's a minor supporting role and sometimes it's just complete crap. What this is a long way of saying is that this may be the most star-studded post I've done in a while.
And now for the Kevin Costner portion of our show. Good old Kev just happened to hit the big time at the same time the VHS boom was really going into overdrive and as a result, his early work ended up being shoved down the throats of the consumers. Much like his contemporary stuff at the time, now that I think about it.
*I like the film and all but Best Picture? Really?
To wrap things up, we take a look at two early works with none other than Robert DeNiro.
And with that, this epic comes to a close. Catch ya' later!