Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Some movies seem to bring their own moods with them, and the mood of “All Night Long” is dispirited mopery. Here's a movie with a high-energy cast and a promising comic plot, and the director seems to be aiming for the bittersweet. How can you possibly start out with Gene Hackman as the manager of an all-night drugstore, and Barbra Streisand as a fireman's wife who likes to swing, and wind up with a movie where everybody's sighing all the time?
Jean-Claude Tramont finds a way. He's the director of “All Night Long,” and maybe he should bear the responsibility. I've been arguing for years that Barbra Streisand would be one of the greatest comedians of all time if she'd just accept strong direction and not play it safe by controlling every detail of her films. Maybe I was wrong. Surely it wasn't Streisand's idea to play her character as a quiet, vacant-minded nonentity. Here's one of the most powerful personalities in movie history, and she doesn't have a single scene where she lets loose. She's almost intimidated by the clothes she wears.
Gene Hackman's character is also a disappointment. He plays an executive of the drug chain, and he's demoted to the all-night managerial position because he threw a chair through the boss's window. It's at this point (very early on) that the movie gets lost. It could have developed into a fascinating portrait of all-night society, but it doesn't. It assigns a few weirdos to march through the store and do their thing, but they don't feel real, they feel like actors. The story never approaches the rhythms of life. You know a movie's in trouble when it makes a running gag out of how to pronounce the hero's name.
Meanwhile, there's this would-be sex comedy trying to get started. Hackman discovers that his son is having an affair with a married cousin (Streisand). Hackman tries to break it up, but gets involved with Streisand himself. Hackman's wife (Diane Ladd) calls her lawyer. Streisand's husband (Kevin Dobson) tries to intimidate Hackman. This might have somehow been made into a farce, but the director keeps losing the pace. Scenes begin with the promise of fireworks and end with the characters at a loss for words. You also know a movie's in trouble when it has the heroine ride a motor scooter just to make her seem like more of a character.
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