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Diner (1982, Barry Levinson)

I’ve probably seen Diner ten times but I still don’t know where to start with it. Barry Levinson sets the present action between Christmas and New Year’s, so one probably could sit down and chart out what happens on each day. There’s a big basketball bet driving some of the narrative, but mostly just for Mickey Rourke and Ellen Barkin, but also for Kevin Bacon.

And Levinson leaves so much of it unresolved–Bacon, for example–while concentrating (for the finish) on the things he didn’t pay much attention to throughout the film. The film often has this great fifties soundtrack going, which masks its quietness. Even though Levinson writes these amazing dialogue exchanges, the most telling moments for the cast–even at the beginning (Levinson and Stu Linder cut together these amazing sequences from the very start, Peter Sova’s photography helping out a lot, of course)–isn’t what they’re saying. It’s the moments where the characters are silent and thinking.

All of the acting is outstanding. Rourke and Barkin are the best, then Steve Guttenberg and Kevin Bacon… then Tim Daly and Daniel Stern. Not because Daly and Stern are bad, but because Stern has the least to do. Daly has a little more, but Levinson sort of dulls the focus off him as the film progresses. The choices Levinson makes regarding what characters get attention and when are more of his brilliant ones in Diner.

It’s an exceptional motion picture. One appreciates its sublimeness more on each viewing.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Barry Levinson; director of photography, Peter Sova; edited by Stu Linder; music by Bruce Brody and Ivan Král; produced by Jerry Weintraub; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Steve Guttenberg (Edward ‘Eddie’ Simmons), Daniel Stern (Laurence ‘Shrevie’ Schreiber), Mickey Rourke (Robert ‘Boogie’ Sheftell), Kevin Bacon (Timothy Fenwick, Jr.), Tim Daly (William ‘Billy’ Howard), Ellen Barkin (Beth Schreiber), Paul Reiser (Modell), Kathryn Dowling (Barbara), Michael Tucker (Bagel), Jessica James (Mrs. Simmons), Colette Blonigan (Carol Heathrow), Kelle Kipp (Diane), John Aquino (Tank), Claudia Cron (Jane Chisholm),Tom Tammi (Howard Fenwick) and Sharon Ziman (Elyse).


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Diner (1983, Barry Levinson)

What a difference a cast makes. Barry Levinson’s pilot for a “Diner” television series reunites some of the film crew–editor Stu Linder does a wonderful job–but the only returning actors are Paul Reiser and Jessica James. Both are good–and Alison La Placa and Mady Kaplan are great as the wives (Levinson’s best writing is for them)–but they don’t offset the new leads.

Worst is Max Cantor (in for Daniel Stern), then Michael Madsen (for Mickey Rourke) and finally Mike Binder (for Steve Guttenberg). Levinson’s script’s part of the problem. He writes Cantor and Binder’s parts for the original actors. Binder might’ve with better dialogue.

Madsen’s awful, but Levinson inexplicably writes the character as a dimwit.

James Spader’s okay (in for Kevin Bacon).

It’s interesting–especially since it’s a direct sequel to the movie–very well directed and written in parts, but the male leads sink it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Barry Levinson; director of photography, Dominic Palmieri; edited by Stu Linder; produced by Mark Johnson.

Starring Paul Reiser (Modell), James Spader (Fenwick), Mike Binder (Eddie), Max Cantor (Shrevie), Michael Madsen (Boogie), Mady Kaplan (Beth), Alison La Placa (Elyse), Robert Pastorelli (Turko), Arnie Mazer (The Gripper), Ted Bafaloukos (George) and Jessica James (Eddie’s Mother).


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