Saturday, January 25, 2014
During the silent film era at the beginning of the 20th century, Leo Harrigan is an unsuccessful lawyer who accidentally stumbles into the office of H.H. Cobb, an independent film producer who is struggling with major film companies who want to crush independent films shown for a nickle in small cinemas, called "nickleodeon". Harrigan is sent to California to oversee the production of a film, but is promoted to replace the runaway director. He finds a new main actor, Buck Greenaway, but they are both in love with the same girl, Kathleen. Cobb recuts their films and fires them, they find a new job in a new studio, but return to Cobb after the premiere of "The Birth of a Nation".
American cineast Peter Bogdanovich used W.D. Richter's script about the silent film era to craft a loving homage to the period, and add some modern parallels with the elements involving the ever lasting rivalry between the big budget-mainstream and independent film productions, imitating even a few stylistic decisions and slapstick scenes typical for those old movies, yet it seems Bogdanovich and Richter simply did not find a common language, since "Nickleodeon" is strangely uneven and uninspired at times, especially in the overlong running time and a vague ending. Some jokes work (the major film studios hire goons to use a gun and literally shoot and "assassinate" a camera of the independent production; Greenaway is paid 10$ to ride a horse for a show as a last minute stand-in, but doesn't what to do in front of the audience, so the producers simply hastily put him on a horse and say: "Don't worry, the horse knows what to do!"), while others seem dated, like the forced, long sequence of Harrigan (O'Neal) and Greenaway (Reynolds) fighting with their fists at the farm, which is surprisingly stiff and sluggish despite the fact that they break numerous stuff, two notches bellow Bogdanovich's better sense of physical comedy in "What's Up, Doc?" A small jewel here is the 13-year old Tatum O'Neal who proves that her excellent performance in "Paper Moon" wasn't an accident, and in fact seems almost like a continuation of the character, since her Alice in this film is equally of a snappy girl who drives a car and throws a bottle of booze from the table to distract a studio guard.