Daily Archives: July 27, 1990

Godfather and Son [on THE FRESHMAN]

From the Chicago Reader, July 27, 1990. –J.R.

THE FRESHMAN

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Andrew Bergman

With Matthew Broderick, Marlon Brando, Bruno Kirby, Penelope Ann Miller, Frank Whaley, Maximilian Schell, and Bert Parks.

“The overwhelming attractiveness of the screwball comedies involved more than the wonderful personnel. It had to do with the effort they made at reconciling the irreconcilable. They created an America of perfect unity: all classes as one, the rural-urban divide breached, love and decency and neighborliness ascendant. –Andrew Bergman, We’re in the Money (1971)

Most reviews of The Freshman have understandably focused on Marlon Brando. After all, everybody knows Brando, while hardly anyone is familiar with Andrew Bergman, the writer-director. But a movie as outlandish as this needs to be seen in some sort of context if one is going to make any sense of it, and it seems to me that Bergman is more important to this context than Brando is. It was his script, after all, that lured Brando into his first major role in a decade.

Bergman was born in Queens, the son of a New York Daily News radio and TV columnist named Rudy Bergman, and was an early fan of TV comics like Ernie Kovacs, Victor Borge, and Bob and Ray.… Read more »

Presumed Innocent

This adaptation of Scott Turow’s best-selling novel–about an idealistic prosecutor (Harrison Ford at his best) who becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a colleague (Greta Scacchi) with whom he had an adulterous affair–is a top-notch courtroom drama that will keep you guessing if you haven’t read the book; even if you have, it is still a very well crafted story, directed by Alan J. Pakula (Klute, All the President’s Men), who collaborated on the script with Frank Pierson, and effectively shot by Gordon Willis. While it never reaches the level of Anatomy of a Murder, which is probably the high point in this genre, it shares with that film a rather complex view of the judicial system that makes the multiple plot twists all part of an overall vision, and Paul Winfield here rivals Joseph Welch in the earlier film by making the most of (read hamming up) his juicy part as the judge. The remainder of the cast–including Brian Dennehy, Raul Julia, Bonnie Bedelia, and John Spencer–is never less than capable, and Pakula and Ford are especially good in handling the nuances of sexual obsession. (Ford City, Evanston, Norridge, Webster Place, Burnham Plaza, Edens, Golf Mill, 900 N.… Read more »

Love Your Mama

After a long and successful career in day care, Ruby L. Oliver made this, her first feature, originally known as Leola, in her late 40s. It’s a remarkable debut: assured, highly focused, surprisingly upbeat considering the number of problems it addresses without flinching–and the best low-budget Chicago independent feature that I’ve seen. Set in contemporary Chicago, it concerns a 17-year-old girl from the ghetto whose plans for the future are jeopardized when she finds herself pregnant. In addition, her brothers are gradually drifting into a life of crime, her mother is having difficulty maintaining a day-care center without a license, and her stepfather is an alcoholic and philanderer. The plot line is concentrated and purposeful, and the cast–including Carol E. Hall, Audrey Morgan (particularly impressive as the mother), Earnest Rayford, Andre Robinson, and Kearo Johnson–is uniformly fine. In addition to writing, directing, producing, and financing the film, Oliver is also credited with casting, served as set decorator and location manager, and sang as well as wrote the lyrics to the film’s theme song (1989). (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, July 27, 6:00 and 8:00; Saturday, July 28, 3:00; Sunday, July 29, 1:00; and Monday through Thursday, July 30 through August 2, 6:00; 443-3737) … Read more »

Chicago Joe and the Showgirl

Although it’s based on a disturbing true story–the so-called cleft-chin murder case that swept the English press in 1944–this period drama, written by David A. Yallop and directed by Bernard Rose, is served up in the form of fanciful and stylish nostalgia (evocative at times of both The Singing Detective and Bonnie and Clyde), perhaps because the power of fantasy is mainly what it’s about. Emily Lloyd and Kiefer Sutherland star as an aspiring 18-year-old movie star and a 22-year-old American serviceman who claims to have Chicago gangster connections. They meet during the London bombings and spur on each other’s fantasies until they’ve embarked on a life of crime. The results aren’t uniformly successful, but the film’s production design (by Gemma Jackson) is a knockout, and Lloyd and Sutherland make a pretty steamy couple. With Patsy Kensit and Keith Allen. (Esquire)… Read more »