Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Only the Lonely

Only the Lonely; tragicomedy, USA, 1991; D: Chris Columbus, S: John Candy, Maureen O'Hara, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Quinn, James Belushi, Kevin Dunn, Macaulay Caulkin, Milo O'Shea

Chicago. Danny is a 38-year old police officer who still lives with his overprotective and conservative mother Rose. He has a relatively fine life, but feels lonely. When he meets the shy Teresa, who works as a make-up artist in a funeral home, he finally falls in love. However, his mother is against the relationship, fearing Danny will move out. Just as they were about to get married, Danny doesn't show up at the church. He chooses to stay with his mother. However, he eventually changes his mind and ends up with Teresa, while his mother moves to Florida with the Greek neighbor.

Even though some critics called it "sterile", "pale" and "thin", Chris Columbus' humorous drama "Only the Lonely" is a small, forgotten jewel and his most personal film. Just like "Marty", it tackles a difficult subject that is often left out in the movie world: that even at middle-age, people may not find the partner for life, staying alone. Luckily, Columbus and producer John Hughes decided to take a humorous approach, elegantly avoiding sentimentality while at the same time achieving a touching and honest story. John Candy, one of the greatest comedians of the 80s and 90s, achieved a lifetime role as Danny - he had funnier performances, but never such as this where he showed his emotional side, a man torn by transience, forced to chose between his girlfriend and his mother, which gives the film almost a dramatic flair. Likewise, his "flirt monologue" when he first talks with Teresa, is genius.

Maureen O'Hara, who returned to acting for this film after 20 years of retirement, is fabulous as the problematic mother Rose - she is at times so mean and grouchy it is intolerable (the date sequence, where she "subtly" insults Teresa, half-Polish, by "accidentally" mentioning an anecdote where she met a Polish woman: "She was the stupidest woman I ever knew. She thought that black cows squirted chocolate milk!") and then again she also shows her fragile state, which hides behind the mean facade because she just wants best for Danny, not realizing she is actually doing the opposite. One of the funniest things is the "running gag" of Danny constantly imagining his mother in trouble without him, such as the sequence where she falls through the sever and says this before she passes out: "Danny, I hope at least your baseball game is fun!" The movie needed more of such sharper examples of satire, as well as a better elaboration of the relationship between Teresa and Rose, since they interact only twice during the whole story, whereas the tone really is too mild at times. Still, it is sweet and fun, which just grows on you with further vieweings - if there is one protagonist here, it is the comfortable routine of now, and if there is one antagonist, then it is time and change of future; yet finding the balance in life requires the hero to give up the one for the later and progress eventually - and the scene where Danny and Teresa observe the sunrise at the lake is beautifully romantic.


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