From the Chicago Reader (March 9, 1990); revised in October 1995 for my collection Movies as Politics. — J.R.
THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY *** (A must-see)
Directed and written by Michael Roemer
With Martin Priest, Ben Lang, Maxine Woods, Henry Nemo, Jacques Taylor, Jean Leslie, Ellen Herbert, and Sandra Kazan.
I hate stars. There’s a part of our culture that devotes itself ceaselessly to producing, promoting, and consuming them, and a lot of people would have you believe that they rule our consciousness — our politics, our fantasies, our ideas, our conversation, our art and entertainment. But one of our best-kept and most precious secrets is that a great deal goes on in our culture and in our lives that has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with stars and everything to do with ordinary people.
Insofar as we can distinguish between illusion and reality — and the popularity of someone like Reagan suggests that we neither can nor want to very much — ordinary people, not stars, form the fabric of our daily existence; and most movies, simply by virtue of the fact that they have stars, ignore, deny, and impugn that fabric. An inordinate amount of energy in our society is devoted to proving that stars (Reagan or Bush, Cruise or Streep, Madonna or Jagger, Trump or Warhol, Spielberg or Sontag) are ordinary people just like you and me, when it might be more useful to prove that ordinary people — the people we live with — are the stars that actually belong in our constellations.… Read more »