Rafelson’s movie is driven by complex characters played by talented actors. So forget the plot, instead you have Jack Nicholson as a depressed, aloof author, Bruce Dern as a hyperactive, audacious real estate player, Ellen Burstyn as a manic former beauty queen, Julia Anne Robinson as a young, sensual drifter, and the tension and dynamics resulting from such a group of characters, and loads of memorable scenes.
It's a concept at the heart of America: Horatio Alger swan-diving into an empty pool. This tale has been told a lot better, and the narrative here feels undercooked. But the characters, performances, and ideas—the two halves of an artist—are strong enough that it makes you miss this grainy era of American cinema. And it's nice to see Nicholson and Scatman Crothers share a great scene without Jack killing him.
3.5 stars. If you like slow-burning, tense, downbeat character studies, this is a good one. How pitiful it is that, no matter how old people become, they always seem willing to delude themselves in order not to deal with the pain or disappointment of reality. Plans and dreams aren't going to materialize just to assuage your anxiety, and the choices you make often lead to your own undoing. How else could it be?
Great cast of Nicholson, Burstyn, etc really bring this Fellini-esque film to life. Rafelson did better in Five Easy Pieces, but not by much. Kovacs provides beautiful camerawork throughout, really capturing Atlantic City at its most desolate. A downer of a film, but the opening monologue and ending scenes are some of the best of 70s cinema. Nicholson's most un-Nicholson performance. 4.5 stars
Nicholson restrained. The problem with doing 'The Shining' is that you can always see him as that crazy person, because he went so far over the top. That role of the crazy person was given to Burstyn in this movie. The dialogue reminded me of Albee. The constant hustling, optimistic point of view, and nonsense promises reminded me more of Hollywood than Atlantic City. It's very thoughtful, yet a bit predictable.
An uncomfortable and affecting film, the off-season resort providing the perfect backdrop to the portrayal of human aspiration, failing and emotional instability. The performances are excellent but there is a ponderousness to the film's rhythms and its ingredients don't really cohere into a satisfying whole.
The three films Bob Rafelson directed in the 70s are Essential New Hollywood. This one is an enigmatic sidewinder, a serpentine trainwreck. Great cast: Nicholson, Dern, Burstyn, Scatman Crothers - they put the lines in the picture but it is cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs who puts the paint on this masterpiece and in the final scene he gives us film on film, reminding us that it's the picture that tells the story.
Has one of the most mesmerizing and hypnotic openings to any American film that I can recall as Nicholson faces the camera and relates a disturbing family anecdote. Rafelson follows "Five Easy Pieces" with this eccentric, sad exploration of artists, outcasts, dreamers and seekers trying on roles as they playact glamorous success that will never come to them in real life. Ellen Burstyn's performance is heartbreaking.
A little lacking in va va voom. Out of season resorts will always seem that way. Another film where you sense something awful is pending, but you don't know what. Good performances, and some poignant lines. I kept getting flashes of the other massive hotel Jack stayed at out of season. He really shouldn't. It never turns out well.
A film more focused on delivering the right decadent mood than developing a meaningful story. Rafelson succeeds at the former with virtuous cinematography and Atlantic City serves as a perfect metaphore for a tale of dreams and illusions wasted by the sea. However the whole affair turns up being a monotonous pitch, a script that does not deliver a past dimenssion or tension throughout but plain gloom and dullness.
Disturbing to see Jack N play such a low-key character without his usual sense of threat, but opening monologue draws us in. More crazy, deluded Americans (with firearms) fooling each other and trying to fool others out of their money. Great atmosphere from low season Atlantic City resort setting. Fucked-up doesn't even begin to describe their lives ...
Incredible. Perhaps my favourite Rafelson/Nicholson film. I loved watching Jack reveal that deeper, more thoughtful side to his talents and no one does unhinged like Ellen Burstyn. The direction here is a difficult blend of loose and controlled; like Rafelson was somehow in a flow state when he made it. It's a small, quiet film that echoes down to the present day. Plans, family, sadness, decay - who couldn't relate?