28 December 2014

Stanley and Iris


Stanley and Iris 1990
  • Director: Martin Ritt
  • Based on novel  by Pat Barker
  • Cast: Jane Fonda, Robert De Niro, Swoosie Kurtz, Martha Plimpton
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Jane Fonda    The Butler, The Morning After, On Golden Pond, Nine to Five, The Electric Horseman, The China Syndrome, Homecoming, Julia, A Doll’s House, Klute, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, Barefoot in the Park, Cat Ballou
    • Robert De Niro – Stardust, Extras, Fifteen Minutes, Flawless, Jackie Brown, Cop Land, Marvin’s Room, Heat, Frankenstein, Awakenings, Brazil, Falling in Love, The Deer Hunter, New York New York, 1900, Taxi Driver
    • Swoosie Kurtz  Nurse Jackie, Citizen Ruth, Reality Bites, The World According to Garp
    • Martha Plimpton – Beautiful Girls. I Shot Andy Warhol, Stars and Bars, The Mosquito Coast
  • Why? Liked it the first time
  • Seen:  Once previously. Now December 20, 2014
About a year ago we watched Frankie and Johnny with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer and I kept waiting for Pfeiffer to discover that Pacino couldn’t read and start teaching him. I finally figured out that it was the wrong movie. And finally, after some frustration, I remembered this one. And bought it. And now we’re watching it.
Iris, newly widowed, has a hard life. She has family burdens and a lousy low paying job on a baked goods assembly line.  Her co-worker Stanley can’t read, can’t keep a job, and has no one when his aged father dies.
It’s an unrelentingly grim story. An American version of Mike Leigh’s kitchen sink realism. A bit sugar-coated though.  It goes slowly but predictably from bristly resentments to friendship to love.
It’s a serious subject – economic oppression and illiteracy in the wealthiest nation in the world (though the novel it’s based on is by a British writer about Britain) - that deserves a good movie, but this isn’t as good as it should be.  It’s not as good as I remember it. I think the problem is De Niro. He’s been great in some films but he just isn’t right for this one. There’s no chemistry whatsoever between him and Fonda, who gives a strong performance.  Too bad. And the rippling yes-we-have-a-difficult-life-but-let-us-be-uplifted music is irritating.

2 ½ * of 5

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