Tag Archives: Richard Venture

Touch and Go (1986, Robert Mandel)

Save lead Michael Keaton, the Chicago location shooting and the technical competence, Touch and Go plays like an overlong sitcom pilot. Keaton’s a star hockey player who gets mugged by a gang of young “toughs,” including Ajay Naidu. Because he’s a nice guy, Keaton doesn’t turn Naidu into the cops, instead getting involved with him and his mother (played by Maria Conchita Alonso).

I used quotation marks for toughs because they’re a bunch of wimpy white teenagers in leather jackets. Unless you count Naidu, who’s the youngest. He’s the only one who doesn’t seem miscast in a high school play.

Inevitably, the film becomes the story of Keaton realizing he needs more in his life than hockey. But there’s a split between his story and Naidu and Alonso’s, which is occasionally excruciating because Alonso is so bad. Naidu isn’t great but he’s a lot better than Alonso.

Lara Jill Miller is a lot better than Alonso too and she’s only in it for two scenes. Everyone’s better than Alonso. Except those toughs.

But Touch and Go is rather well-produced. Robert Mandel’s direction is often fantastic. He really does make Keaton’s listlessness in success palpable. Sylvester Levay’s score is good too–except during the street tough scenes–and Richard H. Kline does an excellent job with the photography. There’s just nothing they can do about the plot.

With a different female lead–Alonso and Keaton have a negative amount of chemistry–the film might’ve overcome its problems. Even the thugs.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Mandel; written by Alan Ormsby, Bob Sand and Harry Colomby; director of photography, Robert H. Kline; edited by Walt Mulconery; music by Sylvester Levay; production designer, Charles Rosen; produced by Stephen J. Friedman; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Michael Keaton (Bobby Barbato), Maria Conchita Alonso (Denise DeLeon), Ajay Naidu (Louis DeLeon), Max Wright (Lester), Maria Tucci (Dee Dee), Lara Jill Miller (Courtney), Richard Venture (Gower), John Reilly (Jerry Pepper), Michael Zelniker (McDonald), D.V. DeVincentis (Lupo), Dennis Duffy (Lynch), Steve Pink (Green) and Earl Boen (Emil the waiter).

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The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972, Paul Newman)

Paul Newman must have had an interesting experience directing Man-in-the Moon Marigolds. His wife played the lead and their daughter played her daughter, the film’s protagonist. The mother’s awful (Joanne Woodward isn’t awful, the character is awful) and Newman sticks with her. Woodward manages to infuse her with some humanity, but only so much is possible. There isn’t very much tension whether or not things will be all right (they won’t), but the last act is structured with lots of moments of immediate dread, so many I forgot the inevitable and it still came as a surprise at the end.

Watching Man-in-the-Moon is watching an exploration. It’s not a character study, since Woodward’s character isn’t the protagonist, and the differences between the film and a character study make it all the more interesting. We learn all about this woman, who we’ve prejudged–there are a few moments when we might be wrong about her, but there’s really only like three–and the film goes and confirms everything we’ve already decided. It’s an strange formula, since it breaks one of those major tenets of good fiction, never let the reader prejudge the character. The reader engages a work to make that decision. This observation leads me to Man-in-the-Moon’s quality as fiction. I’m not sure it’s particularly good. It comes from a play and Newman does a great job making it not feel like a play, but the film wallows in a stifling helplessness. It’s good, but it’s good because the writing–by Alvin Sargent, who also adapted Ordinary People and knows how to make things work–and the acting and the directing all go together. There’s also the setting, some sad Connecticut town, populated with people who never went anywhere. Idealism is absent from Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds and Newman makes you work for anything positive.

As a director, I’m not sure who Newman learned from. Some actors (George Clooney) have very obvious influences, but Newman’s beyond quiet. He does let composer Maurice Jarre carry some of the weight, but otherwise, the camera isn’t even present. Still, its absence doesn’t make the adapted play feel stagy, Newman just doesn’t let the viewer interact with him. It’s a great approach and probably the one to make this material work.

All of the performances are perfect, not just Woodward and real-life daughter Nell “Potts” (you’ve seen her on the Newman’s Own labels), but also the other sister, played by Roberta Wallach (Eli Wallach’s daughter–love that IMDb). After seeing the film version–and I know Woodward is a big supporter of the theater, so I’m sure this reaction wasn’t at all her intent–I have no interest in seeing a staged version. It couldn’t be as good, which is the greatest compliment an adaptation can get.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed and produced by Paul Newman; screenplay by Alvin Sargent, based on the play by Paul Zindel; director of photography, Adam Holender; edited by Evan Lottman; music by Maurice Jarre; production designer, Gene Callahan; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Joanne Woodward (Beatrice), Nell Polts (Malilda), Roberta Wallach (Ruth), Judith Lowry (Granny), Richard Venture (Floyd) and Carolyn Coates (Mrs. McKay).


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