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

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_6svpck54r9k0mz9xcfzswrxcin

Winter Sleep

The running time of his new picture Winter Sleep, three hours and change, suggests weight, but at it happens, this movie struck me as both…

Thumb_oax1ohn3ltgrf3vlh5ff28w0yjn

Mr. Turner

Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…

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
Channel Archives

Reviews

Star Spangled Girl

  |  

"Star Spangled Girl" has a smart aleck, wisecracking 1930s charm to it, and makes you realize how slow movie comedies have been getting recently. It's based on a totally inconsequential Neil Simon comedy, but it isn't directed like other movie versions of Simon. It pays the slightest possible attention to the story line, and revels in breakneck dialog, and somewhere along the way you begin to like the artificiality of it all.

Movie comedy has grown too realistic during the last 20 years. It began in silent films as complete artifice and the 1930s classics by the Marx Brothers and W. C. Fields paid absolutely no heed to plausibility. But then writers and directors - refugees from socially responsible Depression philosophies maybe - began to think comedies should have a story line, a message and hunks of schmaltz, and by now we're lucky to get a couple of good movie comedies in a year.

There are a lot of things I can't stand about modern movie comedy, but the two most reprehensible are (a) a romantic angle, and (b) an ending in which comedy's natural anarchism is traded in for shopworn sentiment and a warm glow. I detest warm glows. Comedy should go out the way it comes in, as the most profoundly subversive force in art.

Simon is compulsive about putting in romantic angles and seemingly meaningful endings. There is the black soul of a Serious Artist inside him that won't let go. But "Star Spangled Girl" (one of the lesser of his Broadway successes) has been saved from that by the direction of Jerry Paris, the screenplay of Arnold Margolin and Jim Parker, and the acting of all concerned.

Never mind that Tony Roberts reads some of his lines like Walter Matthau, or that Todd Susman has a way of moving across a room like Groucho; the two of them, and Sandy Duncan as Miss American Pie, drive their Chevy to the levee and it's wet. The movie is paced like a Hecht and MacArthur script; lines are rapid-fire, everybody is talking all the time, Susman hurls himself breathlessly about the set, and everything is surface, motion and punch lines.

There is seemingly a plot and a romantic angle, I must admit. The two guys are roommates who produce an underground paper, and Miss Duncan is a patriotic Olympic swimmer from Florida. First one guy and then the other falls in love with her because of the way her hair smells. As a plot, this is about on the level of Groucho producing an opera or entering a horse race; the entire framework is there only to support gags. You've got to give Paris credit for having the nerve to go whole-hog. It would have taken only one love song on the sound track, only one serious moment of introspection, to cabash the whole cabozzle.

Popular Blog Posts

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

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

The Ten Best Films of 2014

The ten best films of 2014, as chosen by the film critics of RogerEbert.com.

10 Underrated Female Performances of 2014

Ten underrated female performances from 2014 worthy of Oscar consideration.

More on That Later: The Truth About “Serial”

Some thoughts on the hit podcast "Serial".

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus