I Saw A Film!
Another older film suffering from a lack of definition on our modern big screens, this one has Tom Hulce, a few years before mega-stardom with Amadeus and just post-Animal House, as a young man fascinated with a local theater and a struggling, middle-aged thespian, never getting the good roles in the city, played by Frank Langella. Hulce has to argue with father Jerry Stiller about his obsession, promising he’d pass his anatomy course while he does props for the little production. What he doesn’t count on is falling in love with both the theater and a leading lady– the girl who was Travolta’s girlfriend in that wonderfully sappy Boy in the Plastic Bubble film that rended my heart as a tween. At any rate, our boy fails to hold up the bargain, and then learns a few things about human beings in the process. That being they’re a mess.
First Langella’s leading man is a benevolent guide, railing against the director in the boy’s favor and assisting his wooing of said lass. We’d all like an encouraging big brother/uncle character in our lives, one who can turn us on to the good things, and perhaps lend an ear and a bit of non-condescending advice when we’re upset. And so it goes, sort of like a My Favorite Year adjacent tale with a bit less of the swinging from chandeliers (pity that).
Hulce’s young Shoemaker soon learns that there are little lies pervading the faces he’s grown fond of. Langella’s character leads a bit of a double life, a bit ashamed of his summer of “slumming it” in a regional theater, rather than being someplace where the tickets sell for six bucks. I’m a six dollar actor! he proclaims. Shoemaker only realizes Langella is leading a double life when he’s allowed the tiny room Langella rents so that he can attempt to have some pleasure with the girl he’s smitten with, who soon reveals, much to our young Shoemaker’s shock, that she’s married. Then Langella’s agent arrives stirring up much excitement about a possible big time gig, but, it’s only more of same, and we see our mentor and advisor lose his cool and mistreat the stage manager, damaging his wonderful aplomb with a pitiful rage. I’m trying to do good work! He nearly cries.
There’s no blood, no guns, no victims, really, just a plain and realistic story of trying to fit in, make choices, and having to deal with and forgive the foibles that come with even the best of our friends.
This is running free on Prime (usa) and in bad need of a facelift, as it’s a very nice Langella- Hulce-Stiller piece of business about life, if we’re pretty lucky.