Tag Archives: Steve Guttenberg

The Bedroom Window (1987, Curtis Hanson)

Given The Bedroom Window was part of my VHS EP collection, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it. I do know I haven’t seen it in at least a decade and I also know this time is the first I’ve ever wondered about the source novel. The Bedroom Window is very busy; maybe director Hanson wants to distract the audience from where the movie’s going–which he really can’t since “guest star” Elizabeth McGovern gets second-billing–but maybe it’s from the novel. Maybe it’s a really long novel and Hanson, who also wrote the screenplay, had trouble adapting the pace.

But the novel’s only 200 pages. So it’s Hanson.

A good thriller, not even a great one, needs some fusion between the storytelling and the filmmaking. Hitchcockian means the way the film tells the tricky narrative. Or at least, it needs to have that definition. Because bewildered straight man in trouble isn’t Hitchcockian. It’s pedestrian. In The Bedroom Window’s case, the bewildered straight man is Steve Guttenberg. If it weren’t for Guttenberg’s rather buff physic, it might be funny having Guttenberg do a thriller. But it’s not a spoof, it’s Guttenberg trying.

He doesn’t do well. But he’s affable, surrounded by a lot of good actors, and Hanson is trying just as hard to pull of Guttenberg’s performance. Even though it’s often tedious, The Bedroom Window tries. Well, except when it comes to the composition. Hanson and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor shoot Bedroom Window in Panavision and it doesn’t need it. About the only thing the film’s got going for it visually is the Baltimore locations. Taylor’s photography is pretty flat–even though there are lots of eighties wet streets at night shots–but well-lighted. The city looks amazing and you want to see more of it. It gives Window some slack, which the film always needs.

Guttenberg’s an office guy–he has no responsibilities–who starts schtupping his boss’s wife, Isabelle Huppert in a ludicrous performance in a ludicrous role. Huppert witnesses Elizabeth McGovern getting assaulted, but Guttenberg plays witness to keep the affair a secret. This concept might have worked as late as the early sixties, but it’s just unbelievable in 1987. Hanson’s constantly trying to get away from police procedure, lawyer stuff, because he knows he’s peddling a malarky handling of it.

Instead, he introduces a subplot about Robert Schenkkan’s district attorney–trying rape cases–a complete pig. Only then, almost immediately following a big plot twist, we’re supposed to like Schenkkan again. Why make him a pig? Misdirection. Hanson is not a master. He’s not even moderately adept.

But he’s also ambitious in how responsible he wants to be; he’s trying not to make the film feel exploitative. Though one has to wonder why Huppert, given she and Guttenberg have zero chemistry, other than her willingness to disrobe. When Elizabeth McGovern finally shows up as something other than an object–which, quite frustratingly, isn’t until her second or third scene in the film–she gets a lot of good stuff to do. Even when the content is questionable, McGovern’s performance and Hanson’s handling of her performance are stellar. As much as Hanson wants to sell Steve Guttenberg as Jimmy Stewart, he wants McGovern to have a good part.

He just doesn’t know how. He’s sincere about Bedroom Window, which carries over. You want it to be better. Like the music from Michael Shrieve and Patrick Gleeson. Ninety percent of it is disposable smooth jazz. That other ten percent of it is slightly less disposable smooth jazz. But you still want to hope for it. Like the score will eventually get better. It doesn’t.

Great supporting cast–Carl Lumbly, Wallace Shawn, Frederick Coffin, Brad Greenquist, Maury Chaykin–Hanson uses them for temporary amusement. Actually, lots of people in The Bedroom Window are just “guest starring,” which also leads to it feeling like a two-night TV movie event cut down to one VHS tape.

Real strong editing from Scott Conrad. It occasionally goes bad because of Hanson’s bad ideas, but real strong otherwise. He’s better at editing the dramatic than the suspense.

The Bedroom Window is almost significant for McGovern’s performance. She’s great. But the script’s not there and Hanson’s got too many problems. Instead, it’s a curious bit of eighties popular cinema with some fantastic shots of Baltimore.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Curtis Hanson; screenplay by Hanson, based on a novel by Anne Holden; director of photography, Gil Taylor; edited by Scott Conrad; music by Michael Shrieve and Patrick Gleeson; production designer, Ron Foreman; produced by Martha De Laurentiis; released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Starring Steve Guttenberg (Terry Lambert), Elizabeth McGovern (Denise Connelly), Isabelle Huppert (Sylvia Wentworth), Paul Shenar (Collin Wentworth), Carl Lumbly (Det. Quirke), Frederick Coffin (Det. Jessup), Brad Greenquist (Carl Henderson), Robert Schenkkan (State Attorney Peters), Maury Chaykin (Pool Player) and Wallace Shawn (Henderson’s Attorney).


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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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High Spirits (1988, Neil Jordan)

High Spirits is another fine example of how excellent production values, earnest performances and a genial air can make even the most problem riddled film enjoyable.

The studio, infamously, took Spirits away from director Jordan in the editing and the resulting version isn’t his intention. The narrative is disjointed–characters get lost, their arcs collapse, in the case of the hotel employees… they don’t even get established.

The film has an utterly wonderful comic performance from Peter O’Toole near its center. Eventually, O’Toole has to give up the spotlight to Steve Guttenberg, who isn’t nearly as funny (or as good). Guttenberg’s generally likable, thanks to having an fire-breathing dragon of a wife (Beverly D’Angelo) and a pleasant way about him. Terrible outfit though. Spirits has great photography from Alex Thomson, a nice score from George Fenton, lovely Anton Furst production design and lame eighties costuming from Emma Porteus. Why Guttenberg’s wearing a heavy wool coat around indoors half the movie is beyond me.

Jordan’s direction is decent but not exceptional. The special effects and Thomson’s photography make the film after a certain point, especially the effects.

Besides O’Toole, the best performance might be Liam Neeson’s hilarious turn as a horny ghost. As his wife–and murder victim (not to mention Guttenberg’s romantic interest)–Daryl Hannah is good. She doesn’t have a lot to do though. D’Angelo’s on the low side of mediocre.

Regardless of Jordan’s original intent, High Spirits is often rather funny and exquisitely well-made. It’s fine.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Neil Jordan; director of photography, Alex Thomson; edited by Michael Bradsell; music by George Fenton; production designer, Anton Furst; produced by David Saunders and Stephen Woolley; released by TriStar Pictures.

Starring Daryl Hannah (Mary Plunkett Brogan), Peter O’Toole (Peter Plunkett), Steve Guttenberg (Jack Crawford), Beverly D’Angelo (Sharon Brogan Crawford), Jennifer Tilly (Miranda), Liam Neeson (Martin Brogan), Peter Gallagher (Brother Tony), Ray McAnally (Plunkett Senior), Martin Ferrero (Malcolm), Connie Booth (Marge), Donal McCann (Eamon), Mary Coughlan (Katie) and Liz Smith (Mrs. Plunkett).


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Police Academy (1984, Hugh Wilson)

I forgot how loose eighties comedies are in terms of filmmaking and narrative. I don’t think Wilson has a single good shot in the film. The best ones are workmanlike at best and the worst… well, he has these absurdly weak low angle closeups on David Graf, either to make him look tall or crazy. It’s never clear.

Police Academy never concerns itself with a reasonable plot. For example, romance between Steve Guttenberg and Kim Cattrall sort of disappears after a while. The movie only runs ninety minutes and change, so there’s not a lot of time for subplots–especially not after the relatively lengthy first act. But Guttenberg and Cattrall are the ostensible leads; only Cattrall disappears, replaced with the gag characters.

Pretty much everyone in the movie has a gimmick except Guttenberg, Cattrall and G.W. Bailey. Bailey’s the berating, abusive instructor, but it’s not exactly a gimmick. Bubba Smith is tall, Donovan Scott is a wimp, Bruce Mahler is a klutz. Then there’s Michael Winslow with the sound effects. It goes on and on.

There are some good performances. George Gaynes is funny as the dimwitted, but well-meaning commandant of the academy. Guttenberg is very appealing–one forgets he used to be good at these lead roles. Cattrall’s fine, though she has little do to. Smith, Winslow, Marion Ramsey, all good.

Bailey, unfortunately, is pretty weak. He’s sometimes funny… but he doesn’t have a character.

Police Academy has some all right, stupid laughs. But no smart ones.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Hugh Wilson; screenplay by Neal Israel, Pat Proft and Wilson, based on a story by Israel and Proft; director of photography, Michael D. Margulies; edited by Robert Brown and Zach Staenberg; music by Robert Folk; production designer, Trevor Williams; produced by Paul Maslansky; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Steve Guttenberg (Cadet Carey Mahoney), Kim Cattrall (Cadet Karen Thompson), G.W. Bailey (Lt. Thaddeus Harris), Bubba Smith (Cadet Moses Hightower), Donovan Scott (Cadet Leslie Barbara), George Gaynes (Commandant Eric Lassard), Andrew Rubin (Cadet George Martín), David Graf (Cadet Eugene Tackleberry), Leslie Easterbrook (Sgt. Debbie Callahan), Michael Winslow (Cadet Larvell Jones), Debralee Scott (Mrs. Fackler), Bruce Mahler (Cadet Douglas Fackler), Ted Ross (Captain Reed), Scott Thomson (Cadet Chad Copeland), Brant von Hoffman (Cadet Kyle Blankes), Marion Ramsey (Cadet Laverne Hooks) and George R. Robertson (Chief Henry J. Hurst).


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