Before his feature presentation, Zak (now missing the Justin Bieber haircut, so you know he’s pumped for Med School) brought us a 2007 short called Spider by Nash Edgerton.  As they say, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye!

Rather than tell you what it’s about, I’ll just have you watch it. (I do so love the embed video feature!)

Then, it was time for the feature presentation, a favorite of Zak’s stepdad (if I remember that right) that I slowly came to realize I had actually seen at one point – Diner, the first full-length presentation in the at least reasonably impressive career of Barry Levinson.

If you want a Pepsi you’re going to have to pay for it, buddy

On the face of it, there’s not really a lot to the film.  It follows a few days in the lives of a group of twenty-somethings living out the end of 1959 and spending a lot of time in their favorite all-night diner.  Rather than a plot, it has characters and perhaps a few situations and features a who’s who of pre-Brat-Packers, so you can think of it as The Breakfast Club, only with more breakfast.

Some of the characters aren’t very central.  For instance Paul Reiser’s character seems to have no purpose other than to be that guy – the one who asks if you’re going to eat the rest of that sandwich or if you’re driving home, waiting for you to invite him to a bite or a ride.  In fact, his character was so non-central that I can’t even find a picture of him (outside of a group shot) on the almighty Google.

He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!

Another not-terribly-central character is Kevin Bacon, Bad Boy With The Heart Of Gold (#1).  Bacon’s primary role in this film is to appear on screen with a large number of famous actors and so help geeks to invent an internet game, but he does have a nice bit faking a car crash and another getting blitzed and tearing up an outdoor Nativity scene.

Marriage is great, man, you should totally do it!

Daniel Stern (right) plays the married man of the crew, unhappily though it may be.  We get a terrific scene where he berates his wife for misalphabetizing his records and not knowing that Charlie Parker belongs in the Jazz section.  They don’t seem to understand each other very well, and she’s the only major female character in the film, so you can imagine she’ll come into play (no pun intended) later.

I thought you said this party was sweater-casual!

Tim Daly (right) plays the Best Man, who has come back into town for Steve Guttenberg’s wedding and uses the time to reconnect with a girl he had a fling with a few months before.  Well, turns out he knocked her up, so in keeping with the marriage theme of the film he asks her to marry him.  She refuses, because she’s a career-oriented ice queen, and she doesn’t seem to like him very much.

Guttenberg, meanwhile, is the engaged embarrassed virgin, who administers his bride-to-be an oral qual exam…on the history of the Baltimore Colts franchise.  (Remind me again why he isn’t getting any?)  She ends up barely not passing the exam, so he calls the wedding off, but later reneges and gives her enough points to win based on a technicality.  Oddly enough, we never see her face in the film, even during the wedding at the end – an interesting choice but not terribly subtle.

When life fails to give you lemons, try to make lemonade anyway

Finally we come to the main character of the film, Bad Boy With The Heart Of Gold (#2) Mickey Rourke.  Rourke works as a hairdresser, but his main characteristic is that he’s a compulsive gambler, even betting on his sexual exploits.  But after he gets a tip that a particular basketball team is going to be shaving points, he bets $2000 (in 1959 money, that’s a pretty nice house) that he doesn’t have, convinced his ship is coming in.

Oops.

So he makes a bunch of bets with his friends that he can bed a particular girl he just started dating (with a Kevin Bacon witness hidden in the closet) in order to try to raise at least some of the money he owes.  Unfortunately, she calls in sick on the afternoon of the big show.

The only b-side I care about is being beside your best friend!

So in comes Ellen Barkin, the aforementioned disgruntled wife.  It turns out that she and Rourke were an item sometime before the whole marriage thing, and with the “record meltdown” getting her down, Rourke hatches a devious plan to put her in a wig and have her act as the stand-in on his bet. She’s hot to trot (though he lies to her about why the wig), but meanwhile her husband has asked to tag along with Kevin Bacon in the peeping closet, setting up the greatest in flagrante delicto scene in movie history…except it doesn’t happen.  Mr. Heart Of Gold #2 reconsiders literally on the threshold of the apartment, admits his deception to Barkin, and decides to face his bookie like a man.

Like a man with no kneecaps and a few extra bullet holes, we’re led to expect, but the Patron ex Machina at the diner, an old friend of his deceased father’s, settles up the debt in exchange for some indentured servitude.  Rourke didn’t know about this at the time, but he doesn’t really have a choice but to accept the offer.  Indentured servants still have knees, because they need them.

Bill Haley and His Comets will be relevant FOREVER

Finally the Gutenberg/Onlyseenfrombehind wedding comes on New Year’s Eve 1959, and nothing much happens, except for an incredibly exaggerated and bizarre bouquet toss where the flowers, instead of being caught are intentionally tossed, time and time again, through several jump cuts and almost certainly two or three repeated clips, until they come to rest on the table in front of our heroes.  And still.  And fade.  And roll credits.

It’s an entertaining movie all in all, but it just feels very superficial to me.  Few eminently quotable lines, few powerful scenes, not much continuity in the storyline, and what character development happens is relatively trite and predictable.  I wanted more of the Tim Daly/Professional Woman subplot, I wanted Kevin Bacon to have a role in the movie rather than feel like an extra, and I really wanted the adultery scene, where things were about to go terribly, terribly wrong.  Barring that, I wanted Rourke to have to face the consequences of his actions with the bookie, and I didn’t get that either.  So while it was an interesting journey, it’s not one that I really feel the need to take again.

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