Friday, June 26, 2009

Film Review: SWING SHIFT (1984, Jonathan Demme)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 100 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Ed Harris, Fred Ward, Christine Lahti, Holly Hunter, Charles Napier (perennial Demme bit player, BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS), Roger Corman cameo, uncredited writer Ron Nyswaner (THE PRINCE OF PENNSYLVANIA), and shot by Tak Fujimoto (THE SIXTH SENSE, FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, BADLANDS, DEATH RACE 2000).
Tag-lines: "When America marched off to war the women marched into the factory. From then on...nothing was the same."

A solid, Jonathan Demme-directed fusion of nostalgia picture and romantic melodrama that earns its fourth star from a likable, talented, all-star cast. It also presents one of the most impenetrable quandaries ever committed to celluloid, and the dilemma is this: in the battle for Goldie Hawn's heart, should we be rooting for Kurt Russell or Ed Harris? (Within the film, of course; in real life, it would be rather easy to answer.)

Ed and Goldie are married, war strikes, and Ed goes across the Pacific, leaving behind only a paper cut-out picture of himself in his sailor uniform. Then, Kurt Russell, that slick devil, is a jazz trumpeter and lead man at the plant where Goldie the Riveter starts working.

One thing leads to another, and we have the central story arc of this picture. (Which also marks the real-life start of the epic Goldie/Kurt romance.) When Ed returns from the front, rose in hand, only to find... well, it's devastating.

And Ed is brilliantly intense, yet well-tempered; never going too far into sad sack or overly enraged territory, even when he finds out his old lady is steppin' out with Captain Ron.

There's excellent supporting turns by Christine Lahti (Oscar-nominated for her role), Fred Ward (of Altman films, REMO WILLIAMS, and SOUTHERN COMFORT), and Holly Hunter (who is ridiculously good in one key scene where she receives some harrowing news). Four stars.

Side note: The DVD censors the notorious Ed Harris balls-flashing scene. I know everybody's really disappointed.

-Sean Gill

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