Jan. 5, 2006

All Night Long (1981)
Grade: 54/100

Director: Jean-Claude Tramont
Stars: Gene Hackman, Barbra Streisand, Dennis Quaid

What it's about. Gene Hackman's midlife crisis isn't going well. He's been demoted, his marriage is in dire jeopardy, and his son (Dennis Quaid) hates him.

Hackman couldn't be happier. After all, the job was a dead end, the marriage was loveless, and the son is an idiot. Plus, Barbra Streisand has the hots for him.

How others will see it. This quirky comedy will charm all but moralists, who have no business watching 'R' movies anyway. One doesn't even have to feel sorry for the wife (Diane Ladd) left behind, since she's getting it on with the divorce attorney.

How I felt about it. The story has more than its share of unexpected twists. Most reviewers won't tell you what they are. This makes you have to watch the movie to figure out what they might be. Since I don't believe in movie spoilers (films are not basketball games; you should know that Hamlet dies in the end), I can tell you that Hackman quits his crummy late shift store manager job in grand style. He makes quite a scene (and quite a fool of Streisand's cuckold husband, Kevin Dobson) at yet another family reunion. Dennis Quaid shifts allegiances while hearing his father sing opera while the angry fireman rants.

Best of all, Hackman sends the firemen off on a spurious mission so he can pick up Babs without interference. And she's stuck with him, whether or not anyone wants a reversed mirror (probably not). But don't count out his skills as a mechanic.

Technically, Streisand is the female lead. But she's second banana to Hackman, and doesn't seem to mind at all, despite a prior track record of playing star. Probably because she likes the amusing script, and gets to ride off into the sunset, she seems to be having a good time. And she only sings once, in deliberately bad fashion. As it should be in this particular film. Funny Girl it isn't.

Hackman is funny, though. Halfway through the film, it seems he has lost everything, including his sanity. He didn't plan it this way, but it had to be, because the safe but deadening routine of his life was suffocating him.

He had to break out, and the only way to do so was through self-destructive acts. But, he's more clever than he appears. When the walls supporting (or constraining) his existence have fallen, what's left behind isn't ruins, but a brand new start. Congrats to Hackman and company for the laughs.

P.S. Don't try this at home. All Night Long is just a minor comedy. If you tear down the walls yourself, they may fall on you, and not around you.

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