Review: I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955)

>> Sunday, June 21, 2009

USA/B&W-117m./Dir: Daniel Mann/Wr: Helen Deutsch & Jay Richard Kennedy/Cast: Susan Hayward (Lillian Roth), Jo Van Fleet (Katie Roth), Richard Conte (Tony Bardeman), Eddie Albert (Burt McGuire), Don Taylor (Wallie), Ray Danton (David Treadman)

I’ll Cry Tomorrow is one of the booziest biopics ever produced by Hollywood. Based on the autobiography of singer and professed alcoholic Lillian Roth, this glossy melodrama wastes little time on Roth’s rise to stardom and focuses almost entirely on the songbird’s downward spiral into alcoholism, depression, alcoholism, bad marriage, alcoholism, despair, and alcoholism. A more accurate title would have been I’ll Cry Tomorrow, But I’ll Drink Today.

The sensationalized account of Lillian Roth’s life provided a perfect vehicle for MGM’s queen of melodrama, Susan Hayward. As the soused songstress, Hayward was given the opportunity to indulge in the overwrought style of acting in which she specialized. Whether wallowing in self pity, belting out song lyrics, tossing back slugs of whiskey, or suffering shivering fits of delirium tremens, the actress earned her Academy Award nomination by giving her all in every scene. Admittedly, by today’s standards Hayward’s “all” is a bit too much. Her extremely theatrical style of acting often pushes the film in the direction of camp; and some scenes play out like a Carol Burnett Show parody of a 50’s melodrama rather than a serious depiction of addiction.

Despite Hayward’s histrionic performance (or perhaps because of it), I’ll Cry Tomorrow is a very entertaining biopic painted in silky shades of black and white. It is professionally directed, well acted (and overacted), beautifully shot, and the musical numbers are well staged. The worst that can be said for the film is that it suffers some of the problems that plague all biopics--the nagging feeling that a documentary featuring the real subject would have made a more interesting movie and the artificiality of having a single performer portray several decades of an individual’s life (the 38-year-old Hayward, while well preserved, comes off a bit ridiculous portraying Roth as a teenager).

Ultimately, I’ll Cry Tomorrow is a worthy addition to the booze movie subgenre of addiction and recovery films, such as The Lost Weekend (1945) and Days of Wine and Roses (1962). Whether you choose to watch I’ll Cry Tomorrow for its depiction of alcoholism as a disease or simply view it for its camp value, it delivers big on both counts.

Drinks Consumed--Whiskey, martinis (gin), champagne, wine, and unnamed cocktails.

Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech, staggering, stumbling, sneaking sips, the giggles, bickering, brawling, physical violence, public disturbance, passing out, memory blackouts, the shakes, and delirium tremens

Potent Quotables--LILLIAN (narration): Every nerve in my body was screaming. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. All I had to do was open that door and walk ten steps to the bar in my living room to find relief from this torture. Nothing could have that hold on me. I had to face it, confront it. It was the only way. I could, and I had to… I took the drink I didn’t want to take.

Video Availability--I’ll Cry Tomorrow is available as a standalone DVD or as part of The Leading Ladies Collection, Vol. 2 (Warner Brothers).

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Susan Hayward received her first Academy Award nomination playing another sauce-slugging songbird in Smash Up: The Story of a Woman (1947).

I'll Cry Tomorrow (CD featuring the real Lillian Roth)


Booze News: Stream BARFLY through Video-On-Demand!

>> Sunday, June 14, 2009

"When are they going to re-release Barfly on DVD?"

In the three years that Booze Movies has been in existence, that is the question that I've heard most often from readers. Of course, the query is understandable. In the realm of soused cinema, Barfly (1987) ranks very near the top. It is a beautifully written film that manages to be funny, romantic, dramatic, and scuzzy all at once. What's not to love about a film with a Charles Bukowski screenplay and Oscar-caliber work from stars Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway?

Warner Home Video briefly released a nice, widescreen print of Barfly on DVD, but the disc quickly went out-of-print. Since then, the original Warner Barfly DVD has become a collector's item, demanding highly inflated prices from re-sellers, and even the Barfly [VHS] tape has been in high demand.

While there is still no word on a DVD re-release of Barfly, I'm happy to report that the film is now widely available once more--this time as a Video-On-Demand rental that you can stream directly on your computer (or television if you have a Roku player). Currently both Amazon Video On Demand and offer the film as a 24-hour rental for just $2.99.

I haven't watched either stream, so I can't tell you whether the video quality is better through one service or the other. However, there are specific advantages of each stream. Amazon Video On Demand can be streamed to your computer or directly to your television if you have a Roku box or compatible device. The stream is computer-only, but that site also offers a subscription service where you can stream as many of their films as you want for a single monthly fee.

Whichever service you decide to use, it's worth raising a glass to having Barfly readily available once again!



Review: Old School (2003)

>> Sunday, June 7, 2009

USA/C-91m./Dir: Todd Phillips/Wr: Todd Phillips & Scott Armstrong/Cast: Luke Wilson (Mitch Martin), Will Ferrell (Frank “the Tank” Ricard), Vince Vaughn (Bernard “Beanie” Campbell), Jeremy Piven (Dean Gordon Pritchard), Ellen Pompeo (Nicole), Juliette Lewis (Heidi)

In making Old School, writer/director Todd Phillips attempted to capture the feel of the R-rated comedies of the Seventies and Eighties, with National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) as the most obvious inspiration. The film ended up succeeding on many levels. It was a box office champ, and it served to boost the careers of its director and stars (especially Will Ferrell). However, as a film comedy, Old School was a mixed bag at best.

The story concerns a frustrated 30-year-old, Mitch Martin (Luke Wilson), who moves into an old house on the edge of a university after catching his girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) in the act of cheating with multiple partners. While Mitch is just looking for a quiet place to forget his troubles, his thirty-something buddies--stereo magnate Beanie Campbell (Vince Vaughn) and quiet spoken, newly married Frank Ricard (Will Ferrell)--see Mitch’s new digs as an opportunity to relive their wild college days. Beanie initially throws Mitch a beer-drenched blow-out, in which mild-mannered Frank funnels numerous beers and reverts to his animalistic, pre-marriage “Frank the Tank” persona. On the rocks with his wife, Frank moves in with Mitch; and Beanie convinces the pair to start up a fraternity for outcasts of all ages. Of course, the middle-aged frat boys soon get in trouble with the strait-laced Dean (Jeremy Piven).

There are certainly laughs to be had in Old School, but the film is decidedly uneven. The jokes work best when they are reality based and even a little subtle, such as Ferrell’s earnest description of his plans for Saturday at the Home Depot, the unnecessarily foul-mouthed band in the background of the wedding scene, and the way Mitch’s boss offers him Skittles. Unfortunately, the script tends to tilt more towards cheap and broad gags. Phillips seems to have drawn out more of what worked worst in Animal House (cartoon jokes such as when Kevin Bacon gets flattened) and less of what worked best.

While the acting is good throughout, the material and the casting sometimes get in the way of the performances. For example, Luke Wilson is at his best with quirky material (such as 1996’s Bottle Rocket), but as the lead in Old School, he is given little to do but play the straight man for much of the movie. Consequently, he fades in the background as Ferrell and Vaughn hog the spotlight. Jeremy Piven is also miscast. Playing a square, uptight character seems to run opposite of his natural demeanor, and the resulting performance is unnatural. He would have been more effectively cast as one of the frat boys. Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell come off best. Vaughn’s motor mouth routine is consistently funny (“earmuffs”), and many of Will Ferrell’s physical bits are inspired.

Ultimately, Old School will be remembered as the film that propelled Will Ferrell from being known as a Saturday Night Live cast member to the ranks of A-list movie stardom. Whether that ultimately was for good or ill, I will leave it up to you to decide.

Drinks Consumed--Beer, wine, and whiskey

Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech, stumbling, loosened inhibitions, public nudity, soused sex, memory blackouts, and public disturbance

Potent Quotables--FRANK (After funneling a beer): Fill it up again! It’s so good! Once it hits your lips it’s so good!

Video Availability--Old School Unrated Edition DVD and Old School Unrated Edition [Blu-ray] (DreamWorks)

Similarly Sauced Cinema-- Todd Phillips once again paired male bonding with bountiful booze in 2009’s The Hangover.

Mitch-a-Palooza Old School T-shirt

468X60 RENTAL - James Stewart Animated Gif (44kb)

About Me

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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