This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
SantinoCorleone’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
This movie has a magical vibe in the vein of Wonder Boys. I wonder how well it will work on a rewatch. Hitting the right note in a movie like this is a game of inches because everything could very easily either feel forced or flat. The five or so false endings are even okay because the scenes and characters themselves are so enjoyable. It also has a similar quality I just commented on after watching Running on Empty where the style is completely invisible. There are no stunning tracking shots or compositions, just human behavior. However I guess the editing here definitely is a little more clearly highlighting moments and creating jokes.
The small town atmosphere, high level gags, and subtly potent themes about residual family trauma were the things that really made me enjoy this film. It's obviously a glamorized version of a small town but that's the point. Ramshackle old homes and snowy sleepy streets but all the people we see are (past and present) movie stars. The two biggest gags both involve a character only referred to as "Whacker" who is a small child that is very appropriately named. The moment Newman asks "why do they call you Whacker?" was the first big laugh. Then there's a low key masterful sequence with Newman showing up witnessing chaos and just quietly leaving. And then as it progresses it stays consistently funny. Then there's the through line of family trauma which really hits home when Newman goes into his old family home. Just the look on his face tells you everything about how this man was so completely damaged by living with an abusive father that his life was destined to be the mess we are witnessing in the movie. But it's not done as a pat explanation of his character but rather just part of his story. The film allows us to draw our own conclusions.
The poker game at the very end is also a really great scene. There's so much going on and we're laughing while easily following along with all the various plot lines. I think the most impressive thing is that the film has this whole gag about the lawyer losing his leg and it's really good. You can't believe he bets it and you can't believe Newman takes it. But then it does a hard flip later on and uses it in a super sentimental moment. It would be easy to say it's kind of a Lifetime movie kind of vibe but the jokes are too good, the drama is too rich, and Paul Newman is such million watt mega star that it's elevated way beyond that. I think it's cool that it's in the same territory but transcends it, making this kind of a genre movie in a strange way.
This film wins the award for most unexpected appearance of bare breasts, not once but twice. Both times extremely welcome.