Friday, March 26, 2010

Film Review: ARTHUR (1981, Steve Gordon)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 97 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud, Jill Eikenberry, Geraldine Fitzgerald. Music by Burt Bacharach and Christopher Cross.
Tag-line: "Not everyone who drinks is a poet, some of us drink because we're not."
Best one-liner: (Gielgud in Queens): "If you and your undershirt will walk two paces backwards, I could enter this dwelling."

"Don't you wish you were me? I know I do." ARTHUR is the tale of a childlike, middle-aged heir who happens to be the biggest, most vocal lush on the planet. Arthur is played by the diminutive (5'2'') Dudley Moore, and somehow he makes this exasperating character (who had the potential to be one of the most cloying, unbearable figures in film history) extremely likeable and even charming.

Shakespeare giant John Gielgud is Hobson, his ever-faithful butler and stand-in father figure. I could say that Gielgud is too good for the material, but this is the dude who slummed it in CALIGULA just for a paycheck, so he can't really say boo. Arthur’s being forced by his overbearing relatives to marry fellow blue-blood Jill Eikenberry, a classic doormat-type. But then Liza Minnelli rolls in at Liza 'o clock, clad in red and yellow clothes so bright that they cause Gielgud to arch his eyebrow (and that's before he learns that she's from Queens). "A little tart like that could save you a fortune in prostitutes," muses Gielgud, but I guess it's love, and Arthur's torn betwixt a loss of his inheritance and the possibility of actual, emotional bliss.

Barroom buddies.

The set-up is very stock, and the way it plays out isn't exactly shocking, but there's something so gosh-darned likable about Moore, and it’s intriguing to see adult life in New York from the vantage point of a child.

(A child that is completely wasted, that is.) There’s a lot of great stuff going on: the Oscar-winning theme by Christopher Cross, a gentle score by Burt Bacharach, the depiction of Queens as a foreign country ("It's horrible...horrible!"), Arthur placing a glass of scotch on his plate (as he drinks his dinner), and Arthur driving a racecar at a private track whilst swigging from a flask. And a certain amount of weight is lent to the movie by Gielgud and the fact that Moore loosely based the character on his own abusive alcoholic ex-partner, Peter Cook. Four gin-guzzlin’ stars.

-Sean Gill


J.D. said...

Heh, yeah this one's an enjoyable romp. Altho, I dread the upcoming remake starring Russell Brand. Gahd, who's gonna play Liza's role, Katherine Heigl? *Shudder*

Sean Gill said...

Shit the bed! I was not aware of this and now find myself vaguely sickened. Do I dare speculate who will replace Gielgud?

J.D. said...

Michael Caine! Hah.

Seriously, it would not surprise me if that happened.