In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb image001

Breathe

A film that sentimentalizes and softens what was clearly a very difficult situation, turning something that should be effective and honest into something that too…

Thumb tbrzhlne8dnplllwee9bwdgnzle

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

A timely affirmation of feminine power—of the ways in which female wisdom and strength can charge hearts and minds, influence culture and inspire others to…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Journal Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Insignificance

Insignificance Movie Review
  |  

The premise is not too unlikely. Imagine that during one hot and steamy night in a New York City hotel room, the lives of these people crossed paths: Marilyn Monroe, Sen. Joe McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio and Albert Einstein. The key linking element is, of course, Monroe, a woman of such undefinable and ethereal appeal that her real life did indeed encompass such husbands as DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, such admirers as Norman Mailer and Laurence Olivier, such friends as Jack Kennedy and Robert Mitchum. Her address book, which disappeared mysteriously after she died, no doubt included names from such unexpected corners of America that DiMaggio, Einstein and McCarthy would only have been starters.

Advertisement

But imagine, all the same, that long and steamy night and that hotel room, and you have the substance of "Insignificance," which was first a play on the London stage and now arrives as one of the last sorts of films I would have expected Nicholas Roeg to direct. Roeg is a master of baroque visuals and tangled plot lines. His "Don't Look Now" still has people trying to explain that Venetian dwarf in the red raincoat, and his credits include at least one good film, "Eureka," that was not quite sure whether it was a dream.

Now comes a film in which almost all the audacity is contained by the premise - that these four most famous figures of the 1950s met during one long night. Grant Roeg that much, and he gives us a fairly realistic film most of the rest of the way. The characters are never actually given their real names in the film, but there seems to be little doubt who they're meant to be, especially when Einstein and Monroe work out the theory of relativity together, using a flashlight, a few simple props and some almost perfect dialogue.

Monroe is played in the film by Theresa Russell, who is still only about 26 years old, and who already has appeared in such landmarks as "Straight Time," "The Last Tycoon" and "Bad Timing." She doesn't really look very much like Monroe, but what does it matter? The blond hair and the red lips are there, and so is the manner, which has been imitated so often, and so badly, that the imitators prove that Monroe was a special case. Russell doesn't imitate. She builds her performance from the ground up, and it works to hold the movie together.

Advertisement

Tony Curtis has a lot of fun as the hard-drinking, paranoid Senator. He has turned, in his middle years, into a glorious ham, willing to take the chance of appearing ridiculous in order to reach for the farther edges of a performance. His theories about the Russians in this film are little masterpieces of dialogue. Gary Busey is the ball player, stolid and not quite comprehending his famous wife, and Michael Emil is a wonderful Einstein, sweet and childlike, and closest of all of them to Monroe's own personality.

I am not quite sure, however, what the point of the movie is. It's more of an acting and writing tour de force than a statement on sports, politics, sex symbols or relativity. It begins by imagining its remarkable meetings, and ends by having created them. It's all process, no outcome. I think in this case that's OK.

Popular Blog Posts

The Fall of Toxic Masculinity and the Rise of Feminine Consciousness

A special edition of Thumbnails detailing the recent sexual harassment cases in the entertainment and tech industries...

"Blade Runner" vs. "Blade Runner 2049"

A Great Movie is hidden somewhere within "Blade Runner" and "Blade Runner 2049."

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Oscars Could Be Facing Dearth of Diversity Yet Again

A column on the lack of diversity in this year's potential Oscar nominees.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus