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

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_sin_city_a_dame_to_kill_for_ver13

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" doesn't have the electricity of the original, mainly because we've already seen it. Nothing more is really revealed…

Thumb_pqlny7o714q2rle1gszmorzzjue

To Be Takei

“To Be Takei” is a conventional documentary that has a surprising emotional heft. A fun, informative exploration of the life of actor, activist and Trekkie…

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…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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

Reviews

Marvin & Tige

  |  

"Marvin & Tige" is a movie that has been so completely overtaken by tragic events that it is impossible to view it in the spirit in which it was made. It tells the story of a friendship between two survivors: an 11-year-old black street kid and an alcoholic middle-aged white bum. The movie takes place in Atlanta. It was filmed in 1982 and then; of course the tragic series of Atlanta child murders began and the innocence of this film was undermined by the daily headlines.

I tried, as I was watching the film, to avoid thinking about the police dragnet in Atlanta that was looking for just such couples as this young kid and his friend, the bleary-eyed drifter. I could not. But there were other things that bothered me about the film, too, including its treatment of the boy's natural father.

After the bum (John Cassavetes) stages a search, he discovers that the boy's father is a wealthy black businessman (Billy Dee Williams) who lives in a mansion with his wife and daughters, who all could be right out of the pages of Town and Country. In one of the movie's key scenes, the kid has to choose between an ideal black family and a smelly white bum, and it's a close call. I don't object to the choice, so much as to the emotional manipulation that has led up to it.

"Marvin & Tige" is a movie that starts strong and grows progressively cornier and more predictable. The opening scenes are very moving. They show Tige (Gibran Brown) and his mother (Denise Nicholas-Hill), who is a prostitute. Tige steals soup from the supermarket, comes home, eats what he has stolen and then snuggles up while his mother reads him a story. The next morning, she is dead. Tige's reactions in this and the following scenes are a tribute to the acting talent of Brown.

Tige doesn't want to go to a foster home, so he starts living on the streets, and is about to commit suicide when Cassavetes talks him out of it and brings him home to live. Their relationship grows into one of those rough-on-the-outside, warm-inside movie scenarios where every scene, even the good ones, telegraphs itself. They're having a fight and Tige never wants to see him again? Good; Tige will turn up, properly contrite. Cassavetes is drunk and Tige is disgusted? Good; Cassavetes will make amends somehow.

After Tige's real father is found, the movie grows very awkward; Williams stands around in his den like a model for GQ, sipping Scotch and making distinguished statements, while Cassavetes comes across like the patron saint of bums. A dinner scene, with Tige displaying uncertain table manners, rings completely false. The movie's conclusion is pure sentiment; we're a little surprised at how quickly this movie has gone from its realistic, touching opening to its manufactured conclusion.

Is it unfair to penalize this movie because of the coincidence of the tragic events in Atlanta? I didn't feel that I had a choice. In scene after scene, as the young boy and the middle-aged man drift through the streets of Atlanta, once even hugging themselves inside the same tattered overcoat, I kept wondering where the cops were. Who knows? The movie might have played differently if I hadn't been distracted by those thoughts. But, I was.

Popular Blog Posts

Different rules apply

White privilege, lived.

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

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

Ferguson, Missouri: Third World America vs. Atlas Shrugged

An FFC looks at the horrible situation in Ferguson, MO and what it says about where we are and where we're going.

Retrieving the Grail: Robin Williams and "The Fisher King"

An examination and appreciation of one of Robin Williams' greatest films, "The Fisher King."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus