There’s a certain tragedy about All Night Long. Not the film’s story or anything, but the film itself. It’s a debacle–Barbara Streisand is unbelievably terrible and the cuts made to the film (twenty minutes) significantly damage it–a painful to watch debacle. It’s such a chore to get through, I can’t imagine trying to watch it in the theater. IMDb’s trivia section is no help–Lisa Eichhorn, who’s excellent, was originally in Streisand’s role.
The tragedy aspect is Gene Hackman. It’s an amazing performance. Hackman’s performance is so good, it conquers the bad plotting, uninspired direction and annoying score. It just can’t beat Streisand. The funniest scenes–unintentionally–are the ones with Hackman acting well and Streisand acting horribly. One half of the screen is a good movie, the other half is All Night Long.
Further problems stem from the screenplay’s lack of emphasis on Hackman’s relationship with son Dennis Quaid. The two are fantastic together, something apparently the director didn’t realize when shooting the film. Diane Ladd’s also good (as the wife Hackman leaves for Streisand), but Kevin Dobson (as Streisand’s husband) leaves a lot to be desired once the plot requires anything from him.
Richter sets the film up as a comedy–it’s a real precursor to American Beauty–with Hackman managing an all-night pharmacy after losing his office job. Way too little time is spent in the pharmacy though, even though the film populates with odd-ball characters and appealing ones too. Once Hackman leaves, around halfway through, the rest of the film becomes the back and forth of pursuing Streisand.
Something about the script suggests a real lack of maturity (though Richter was thirty-six), particularly in the way all the good guys get a happy ending. The real problems the characters experience are never addressed. Hackman walks out on his wife of seventeen years immediately, though the film never shows any particular problems with their marriage, except her wanting him to apologize to his old boss and he doesn’t want to do it. It’s sloppy writing, sloppy editing and so forth. Director Tramont did very little else–maybe theatrical audiences couldn’t sit through it, no shock–and, as the film ended, I thought about who would have done a better job of directing it. Practically anyone is the obvious and glib answer… but also maybe the right one. Still, it sounds like (from the IMDb trivia page) the producers really wanted Streisand and she’s the overriding problem with the film.
Directed by Jean-Claude Tramont; written by W.D. Richter; director of photography, Philip H. Lathrop; edited by Rachel Igel and Marion Rothman; music by Richard Hazard, Ira Newborn and José Padilla; production designer, Peter Jamison; produced by Leonard Goldberg and Jerry Weintraub; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Gene Hackman (George Dupler), Barbra Streisand (Cheryl Gibbons), Diane Ladd (Helen Dupler), Dennis Quaid (Freddie Dupler), Kevin Dobson (Bobby Gibbons) and William Daniels (Richard H. Copleston).