Thursday, February 4, 2010

Killing 'em Softly

(Max Fischer, 1985)
There are a few, er, problems with this twinkly light comedy about a singer who falls in love with the old bum in the next apartment after he murders/robs her manager and frames her boyfriend. The filmmakers do really seem to be expressing some kind of ass-backwards class consciousness here, but they sure don't give it much of a sales job: should we cheer when George Segal throws acid in the eyes of a guy who's mad because he bought a bad car? Are we to admire Irene Cara for crawling in the bath with this guy while her sympathetic boyfriend rots in jail, forgotten by lover and filmmaker alike? Did we really need that scene-long chat with the floozy about the volume and velocity of Segal's ejaculate? All the bits and pieces of backstory strewn around Segal's apartment never add up to a character, and while his scenes with Joyce Gordon's blowsy neighbour at least work as shtick, they're also typically extraneous and unresolved. Cara's presence requires a bunch of rock-club singing and dancing scenes early on, which warp the arc, though the Segal-Cara piano duet at the end is unexpectedly charming. Nicholas Campbell got a Genie nomination for his performance as the manager, who does get to establish a character, then promptly undermines it, in about three short scenes. But Campbell's really a victim here: his performance largely unfolds in halting, endless wide shots whose only possible explanation is that he's anticipating cutaways that never arrive. Of course any cross-cutting more complicated than two people sitting at a table seems to be beyond Fischer, as one parallel-action setup after another are lost to the linear-sequential energy void. Remedial film school, here we come.

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