Tag Archives: John Mahoney

Tin Men (1987, Barry Levinson)

Tin Men is expansive. So expansive writer-director Levinson can’t get everywhere. He doesn’t have time in 112 mintues, he doesn’t have the structure for it either. Tin Men establishes its narrative distance firmly, deliberately, and usually hilariously in the first act. When Levinson gets to the end of the second act, he’s way too interested in all the plot strands he’s got going on. By that time, the film has–for better or worse (worse, but more on it in a bit)–become Danny DeVito’s movie. DeVito had been sharing more with top-billed Richard Dreyfuss, but then Levinson moves the focus away from Dreyfuss. Except then Levinson becomes immediately more interested in everything going on around DeVito. Except DeVito’s completely unaware of all the things going on around him. So it changes the film’s tone.

At one point, DeVito gets called out on his apathy; while he doesn’t improve, he does start getting more likable. Likable is one of Tin Men’s biggest problems. Levinson loves all of his characters way too much. They’re all a little too precious. When the film starts, however, the characters aren’t likable or lovable or precious. In fact, they’re not supposed to be any of those things, much less all of them.

Tin Men opens with a very nostalgic, sentimental opening title sequence. Levinson’s got some issues with the sentimentality in the film. There’s very little, except when he forces it. After the titles, we meet DeVito and suffering wife Barbara Hershey, then DeVito runs into Dreyfuss. Literally. Car accident.

From their inital argument, which is before the characters are established (and it takes Levinson around half the movie to establish DeVito), Tin Men moves on to setting up the ground situation. DeVito and Dreyfuss are both aluminum siding salesmen. They work for different companies. They have acquaintances in common, but don’t know one another.

Then it’s time to introduce the acquaintances, which is where Tin Men is often its most easily amusing. Big list. Here we go. John Mahoney is Dreyfuss’s sidekick. Jackie Gayle is DeVito’s. Mahoney and Gayle have about the same size parts, except Mahoney’s drama and Gayle’s comedy. Levinson sets DeVito up to have the more humorous storyline, which requires no one like DeVito. Not the other characters, not the viewer.

Sorry, off track already.

Supporting acquantiances–Seymour Cassel, Richard Portnow, Matt Craven, Alan Blumenfeld, and Michael Tucker are Dreyfuss’s entourage. Cassel’s amazing. His delivery of his one-liners transcends. Every one of his scenes is phenomenal. Portnow and Craven are background. Blumenfeld’s a new salesman, so he gets more. Tucker’s a cameo. He’s good, but it’s a cameo. A meaty one, because Levinson loves the characters so much. When he’s being overindulgent with the characters, he’s able to keep the sentimentality in check. When he’s just trying to package the film? That sentimentality flails, always at the wrong time. Levinson can’t figure out how to package the film because it’s not sentimental, even if he intends it to be.

I’m off track again. Tin Men is so much at once, so much.

DeVito’s entourage is Stanley Brock, Bruno Kirby, and J.T. Walsh as the boss. Brock’s hilarious. He’s the Cassel analogue but the delivery is different. Kirby’s the straight man and he’s great. His deliveries of Levinson’s speedy dialogue is magical.

So back to complaining about the packaging. Between the opening and closing bookends, Levinson examines all sorts of things. Sure, there’s the overarching story of Dreyfuss discovering true love with Hershey after stealing her away from DeVito as a prank, but Levinson loses track of that story. He focus on Hershey briefly, setting her up to have a bigger part separate from Dreyfuss, Levinson pulls back. And it’s a shame because Hershey’s awesome and Levinson writes her scenes well. He just can’t keep the film away from DeVito.

Because DeVito is spellbinding. He never learns. He never impresses. He should be loathsome but he’s not because he’s kind of a dope. The character’s usually unpleasant but watching DeVito isn’t.

Dreyfuss is excellent. His part’s not as good.

DeVito overpowers Tin Men until Levinson gets distracted with the American Dream angle. Once Levinson grazes that idea, he can’t stop circling it. Because Tin Men is positive. It adores the trappings of its time period while eagerly anticipating coming progresses. Levinson beautifully foreshadows in the film.

Whenever there’s something deft, Levinson can handle it. When it’s the big stuff like Dreyfuss and Hershey’s romance, he gets distracted. And maybe even bored. Dreyfuss and Hershey get some movie moments–like a lovely rain reconcilation–but Hershey’s best opposite DeVito, not Dreyfuss. Levinson fumbles the character focus in the second half.

Great score (and songs) from Fine Young Cannibals. Stu Linder’s editing is breathtaking. Levinson and Linder cut loose a few times and create these bombastic and sublime sequences. Superb editing.

Peter Sova’s photography is all right. Tin Men is a Touchstone eighties movie and it looks like one. It’s overly saturated, which is great to emphasize the clothes and sometimes the cars; it doesn’t help with the rest. It’s not crisp enough. It’s Levinson’s fault. Sova seems perfectly capable of lighting an interior with some personality. Levinson isn’t tasking him.

Great production design from Peter Jamison.

Tin Men is an excellent (if oversaturated) production. It looks wonderful. It moves wonderful. It sounds wonderful. Tin Men just doesn’t get anywhere wonderful.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Barry Levinson; director of photography, Peter Sova; edited by Stu Linder; music by Fine Young Cannibals; production designer, Peter Jamison; produced by Mark Johnson; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Richard Dreyfuss (BB), Danny DeVito (Tilley), Barbara Hershey (Nora), John Mahoney (Moe), Jackie Gayle (Sam), Stanley Brock (Gil), Seymour Cassel (Cheese), Bruno Kirby (Mouse), J.T. Walsh (Wing), Richard Portnow (Carly), Matt Craven (Looney), Alan Blumenfeld (Stanley), Brad Sullivan (Masters), and Michael Tucker (Bagel).


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She's the One (1996, Edward Burns)

She’s the One has a fantastic first act. Some of the banter doesn’t connect, but all of the performances are strong and when the banter does connect, it makes up for the rest. Director, writer, and star Burns relies a little too much on “gentle” homophobia for the banter between his character and Michael McGlone’s. They’re brothers–John Mahoney (easily giving the film’s best performance) is the dad. Mom never appears. I thought she was deceased, but no, Burns just doesn’t give her an onscreen presence, which is a big problem later on. Anyway, Burns’s reliance on the “sister” jokes for McGlone end up just being foreshadowing for the real problem with the film–Burns and McGlone are lousy leads.

But, wait, still being upbeat about the first act. Maxine Bahns is great as Burns’s new wife. They meet in his cab in the second or third scene and go off to get married. Jennifer Aniston is excellent as McGlone’s suffering wife. She gives the film’s second best performance. But she’s not just suffering because McGlone’s an alpha male jerk, but because he’s carrying on with Cameron Diaz.

Diaz, it turns out, is Burns’s ex-fiancee, who he left after she cheated on him. Eight million stories in New York City, of course it turns out everyone knows each other. Except they don’t, so Burns isn’t even trying to do an interconnected thing. Once the second act hits, Burns fully embraces the “movie about nothing.” Short scenes, usually in long shot, setting up what someone else says and then everyone else talking about it. Maybe if it were intentional, but it seems like Burns is trying to find the story. He never does. She’s the One has roughly thirty minutes of actual content. It runs over ninety minutes.

Along the way, there’s some fine acting from Mahoney and Aniston. Frank Vincent is hilarious as Aniston’s father. McGlone’s a funny jerk. The problem is he’s pretty much the lead, because Burns is exceptionally passive in his performance. He gives himself the shallowest character. Well, it’s between his character and Mahoney’s, but at least Mahoney gets an arc, at least Mahoney gets some agency.

Diaz is bad. She’s got a terrible part, which just gets worse for her along the way, but she’s not good in it. The film requires her to have exceptional chemistry with Burns. She has none. She ought to have some chemistry with McGlone too, since he wants to leave Aniston for her. But nope. Aniston and McGlone, when they’re with other people and not just in their own subplot, are great together. Bahns is best in the first act, then her part goes to crap too.

She’s the One is about Burns and McGlone having to accept some responsibility for themselves and doing whatever it takes to get out of it. Burns, as director, tries as hard as he can do get them out of it too. The women of She’s the One are all universally more interesting than the men; Burns just doesn’t want them to be. So there’s some internalized, “gentle” misogyny going on too.

The last act is a rush to save everything and, thanks to Mahoney and Bahns, Burns is almost able to pull it off. Almost.

Great songs and score from Tom Petty (though it’s usually just for Burns and Bahns, McGlone and Aniston don’t get music). Frank Prinzi’s photography is solid, even if a lot of Burns’s composition is questionable. When he finally gets around to letting characters talk and actors act–i.e. the third act–She’s the One shows some of the promise of the first act.

It’s just too little, too late.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Edward Burns; director of photography, Frank Prinzi; edited by Susan Graef; music by Tom Petty; production designer, William Barclay; produced by Ted Hope, James Schamus, and Burns; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Edward Burns (Mickey Fitzpatrick), Michael McGlone (Francis Fitzpatrick), Maxine Bahns (Hope), Jennifer Aniston (Renee), Cameron Diaz (Heather), John Mahoney (Mr. Fitzpatrick), Leslie Mann (Connie), Malachy McCourt (Tom), Amanda Peet (Molly), Anita Gillette (Carol) and Frank Vincent (Ron).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | EDWARD BURNS.

Striking Distance (1993, Rowdy Herrington)

If it weren’t for the fantastic Brad Fiedel music (until the end credits) and the Pittsburgh locations (the city really is underutilized as a filming location, with Striking Distance taking fantastic advantage of its mix of urban, green and water), there’d be nothing to distinguish this one. It’s a B movie given a high profile because Bruce Willis is the star. Additionally, a lot of the supporting cast is solid and recognizable–but auteur Rowdy Herrington doesn’t have much control of them, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

Willis, for instance, turns in a performance with less depth than if he were selling hair products (maybe to explain his strange, long in the back, pseudo-mullet in the film). Dennis Farina’s awful, clearly needing firmer direction. But Tom Sizemore and Robert Pastorelli are both good. Pastorelli’s actually great in some parts, running loose without having to worry about anyone telling him to stop. Brion James and John Mahoney are both solid in smaller parts. Sarah Jessica Parker isn’t at all believable as Willis’s partner, but she’s not terrible.

The film has, for such a solid production environment, some lame cinematography courtesy Mac Ahlberg, who shot a lot of B movies… so maybe it does fit. Herrington tries to combine a Bruce Willis cop movie with a serial killer thriller, but directed like a horror movie. It succeeds in being incredibly watchable, if completely unrewarding.

There’s a strange amount of bare chested Willis; his shirts apparently go to pieces on touch.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Rowdy Herrington; written by Herrington and Marty Kaplan; director of photography, Mac Ahlberg; edited by Pasquale Buba and Mark Helfrich; music by Brad Fiedel; production designer, Gregg Fonseca; produced by Arnon Milchan, Tony Thomopoulos and Hunt Lowry; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Bruce Willis (Det. Tom Hardy), Sarah Jessica Parker (Jo Christman), Dennis Farina (Capt. Nick Detillo), Tom Sizemore (Det. Danny Detillo), Brion James (Det. Eddie Eiler), Robert Pastorelli (Det. Jimmy Detillo), Timothy Busfield (Tony Sacco), John Mahoney (Lt. Vince Hardy), Andre Braugher (Dist. Atty. Frank Morris), Tom Atkins (Sgt. Fred Hardy), Mike Hodge (Capt. Penderman) and Jodi Long (Officer Kim Lee).


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Moonstruck (1987, Norman Jewison)

I’ve seen Moonstruck once before–though I’d forgotten the terrible opening titles–and I think (I repressed the experience) that time I had the same response I just had this time. Moonstruck makes me worried I have brain damage. The first three quarters of the film, roughly until the very good scene between John Mahoney and Olympia Dukakis–one of the film’s two scenes of any merit–is something of a blur to me. It’s either entirely incoherent, some kind of audio visual LSD or my brain is simply shutting down and restarting every few seconds in the vain hope I’ve stopped watching the film.

The film owes quite a bit to Airplane!, which I wasn’t aware of when I started watching it this time–seriously, I didn’t remember it being quite so terrible–it’s probably the worst film I’ve sat through since Crash. There are all these lame, Airplane!-like jokes, except they aren’t funny. They’re actually rather desperate. I’d list them, but my brain’s already started repairing, so I cannot. Except the last one, with Danny Aiello forgetting his luggage all the time. Ha ha. Just like Crash, Moonstruck is Academy material.

There are a couple things to talk about it, before I run out of time (I’ve been eating tortillas with omega-3 added, so the neurological repairs are probably speedy). I’ll start with the actors, because I can sum up the other bit–about writer John Patrick Shanley–by simply saying he stinks.

Cher has a terrible accent and lousy dialogue. Her character is a witch with a b at the beginning–except the film doesn’t seem to recognize it. Everyone in Moonstruck is entirely self-absorbed. It’s like watching an unfunny “Seinfeld.” But at the beginning, the example I’m thinking of, involves Aiello’s dying mother and Cher being absolutely insensitive to it. She’s even hostile about it. It made me hate her. I don’t often hate fictional characters, but I hated Cher’s character. I didn’t start liking her until after she dyed her hair and stopped talking so much. The strange thing about her performance is it probably would appear good on mute. Her expressions, her physical performance, are good. Speaking of her dying her hair, Moonstruck very strangely objectifies her.

Anyway, there’s also the whole thing about Vincent Gardenia being a lovable adulterer. It’s too much to get into, but it’s astounding.

Nicolas Cage is actually pretty good in the first half. In the second half he has some of the worst dialogue in the film, so he’s terrible. But in the beginning, he’s fine.

Aiello’s lousy.

Louis Guss and Julie Bovasso are both good.

There are lots of nonsensical details, ones I can’t remember–I’m not even going to discuss Shanley in detail, I don’t want to kill any already mangled brain cells. My new favorite is Cher’s engagement ring–she’s wearing it on the wrong finger.

I’m trying to think of anything good to say about Moonstruck, but it’s pretty much impossible. Editor Lou Lombardo has one of the worst jump cuts I’ve ever seen in a major studio release. Actually, that point brings up an interesting comparison–Moonstruck‘s so incompetently written, Troma wouldn’t have greenlighted the script. Umm… the photography frequently doesn’t match because the effects shots of the moon are so terrible. Director Norman Jewison doesn’t have a single good shot in the whole picture, not even during the two good scenes.

I’m just glad I’ll have this response preserved in perpetuity… so I never make the mistake of watching this film again. Unless I’m trying to compare it to a hallucinogenic depressant.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Norman Jewison; written by John Patrick Shanley; director of photography, David Watkin; edited by Lou Lombardo; music by Dick Hyman; production designer, Philip Rosenberg; produced by Patrick J. Palmer and Jewison; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Cher (Loretta Castorini), Nicolas Cage (Ronny Cammareri), Vincent Gardenia (Cosmo Castorini), Olympia Dukakis (Rose Castorini), Danny Aiello (Mr. Johnny Cammareri), Julie Bovasso (Rita Cappomaggi), John Mahoney (Perry) and Louis Guss (Raymond Cappomaggi).


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