Sunday, June 17, 2012
Baltimore around Christmas, '59. A group of high school friends, now in their 20s, still gather to hang around in a local diner. One of them, Shrevie, is already married with Beth, but one evening they have a terrible argument. Beth contemplates to have an affair with Robert, but they both decide it would not be fair. Robert is also in gambling problems and owes a lot of money. Timothy is struggling with alcohol while William finds out his girlfriend is pregnant. They all attend the wedding of Edward.
The feature length directorial debut of Barry Levinson, "Diner" is a nostalgic, sincere but appropriately sober little humorous drama set in author's hometown Baltimore, Maryland, thus enabling him to give an authentic portrait of the mentality and language of those inhabitants. Some critics mistakenly credited Levinson for creating a "movie about nothing" - gentle slice-of-life films that relied on sole interaction of characters instead of a tight story already existed with Felini's "Amarcord" and Yates' "Breaking Away" - yet he showed a sixth sense in understanding the lives of young grown ups trying to find their place in the world. Some jokes are borrowed from other films (the cinema scene where Rourke's character secretly puts his penis in the popcorn box so that his girlfriend will accidentally "reach for it" originates from the charming French teen-comedy "La Boum"), some are clever (the trick question in a quiz referring to how long astronauts have to wait until sunrise on Mercury's dark side), some are "cool" (lighting a cigarette on a stove), yet all are charming, despite a few empty walks and an occasionally lukewarm mood. All actors are in top-notch shape, especially Bacon and Rourke. "Diner" does not grasp the level of "Amarcord" and "Breaking Away", yet few films do, anyway, whereas the biggest pleasure is when the author inserts a few inventive ideas, like the closing credits without music (!), just with the protagonists' voices being heard "chatting" about everyday issues.