Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Here's a case of two actors who do everything humanly possible to create characters who are sweet and believable, and are defeated by a screenplay that forces them into bizarre, implausible behavior. It is not even the behavior I object to; in a raucous sex farce, it would be understandable. It is the film's refusal to come down on one side of the fence or the other: to find a tone and believe in it. It wants to be heartfelt and sincere and vulgar, dirty and shocking. And it is willfully blind to human nature.
"Never Again" stars Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Clayburgh as Christopher and Grace, two lonely people in their 50s. She is divorced; he has never married. They both believe another romance is probably impossible. During the course of this film they will Meet Cute and have a relationship that no two people have ever or will ever have, outside the overheated imagination of Eric Schaeffer, the film's writer and director.
Christopher runs an exterminating service by day and in the evenings plays jazz piano in a Greenwich Village night club; the combination of those two jobs says more about an overwrought screenplay than about employment possibilities in the real world. You might assume a jazz pianist in the Village would have seen something of life and even gathered some knowledge of homosexuality, but Christopher is as naive as a 13-year-old, and wonders if perhaps his failure to form relationships with women is because he is gay. To test this theory, he makes a date with the least convincing transsexual in cinematic history (Michael McKean), and then, fleeing the scene but still in an investigative mood, he enters a gay bar and meets the most unconvincing male hustler in cinematic history--before eventually trying to pick up Grace, who he thinks might be a more convincing transsexual.
She is a woman, she informs him, and has simply fled to the nearest bar after an unhappy experience in her own dating career. They decide to go out for a meal, and show in a few brief scenes that a sane and plausible version of this relationship might have made a wonderful movie. But no. Schaeffer wants it both ways, and has written a screenplay that periodically runs off the rails.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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