Friday, November 11, 2011

The Sunshine Boys

The Sunshine Boys; tragicomedy, USA, 1975; D: Herbert Ross, S: Walter Matthau, Richard Benjamin, George Burns, Lee Meredith, Carol Arthur, F. Murray Abraham

New York. Clark (73) is an old comedian who has not worked with his ex-partner Lewis for 11 years. Clark's nephew Ben is trying to find him a job, but to no avail: in an audition for a commercial, he has troubles remembering his lines. Ben tries to persuade Clark to attend a TV reunion with Lewis since the studio is willing to pay 10,000 $ for them, but Clark is opposed to it - Lewis often spat while talking and poked his chest. Still, Lewis arrives to Clark's apartment. They start an argument over an old sketch so Lewis decides to do the performance, but not talk to him. During the shooting, Clark gets a heart attack and lands in hospital. Lewis visits and comforts him.

This movie adaptation of Neil Simon's play "The Sunshine Boys" received a very good reception: it was critically acclaimed and won 3 Golden Globes (best motion picture - musical or comedy, actor in a musical or comedy - Walter Matthau, supporting actor Richard Benjamin) and one Oscar for the excellent performance by comedian George Burns who prior to this this has not appeared in a film for 36 years. The movie abounds with humor, wit and inspired dialogues, yet is clumsy in the melodramatic dramaturgy which often tends to be sappy-pathetic: Matthau stars as the bald, aging comedian Clark who is senile (he does not distinguish the whistling of the teapot from the telephone ringing) and thus a fair share of misunderstanding tends to be more tragic than comical whereas Burns shows up only some 40 minutes into the film. Still, Simon's fabulous dialogues and quotes are indestructible: "Will you star with him again? Can we discuss this?" - "No, I am busy!" - "Busy with what?" - "With not discussing." / "Is your father dead or alive?" - "Both." - "What do you mean, both?" - "He was alive, and now he is dead." / "Your father laughed the only time in his life in 1 9 3 2." / "I haven't seen Lewis in 11 years. I haven't spoken to him in 12 years." Despite the fact that the tragic tone somehow undermines the jokes, some of them are simply fantastic nonetheless whereas the chemistry between Burns and Matthau is great.


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