Thursday, March 29, 2012

Absence of Malice 1981

Dull and dour movie about newspapers and the rules that reporters sometimes break and  stretch to get a story. Of course there is more to this lemon of a movie but that pretty much sums it up. Ok the plot goes something like this Sally Field plays a pushy and what I consider unprofessional reporter on a Florida newspaper, who steps on the truth with her sexy and very small size open toe heels in order to get her story.  She writes an unproven and ultimately untrue story about Paul Newman who plays the son of a dead gangster, who Sally insinuates is tied up in the recent disappearance of a labor leader. Newman is nice, not a gangster and for most of the running time of the movie tries to get at the source of this false story. Its hard to believe that Sally would last one minute at a newspaper writing the kind of stuff  that she publishes, and it is also  amazing that a newspaper would last two minutes after putting so much unsubstantiated rubbish between their pages.  Both Newman (who is too old for the part by 10 years) and Field are miscast and their performances are lazy and laid back, Newman looks bored and seems to be sleepwalking through the film, but still  got an Oscar nomination for his performance.  Sally all pert and cute in her 80’s outfits is just not convincing to me as a reporter, the role calls out for a Jane Fonda or Faye Dunaway. The only good moments in the film come from the wonderful Melinda Dillon (also Oscar nominated ) who plays a close friend of Newman’s and pays a steep price for a story that Sally publishes about her. What is shocking and surprising to me is that this sort of taking down of a sweet, vulnerable and sympathetic young woman is still being used in movies as late as last year’s “The Ides of March”. The one memorable scene in the film (and indeed one of the most moving and memorable scenes of the decade) is of Dillon  racing across her neighbors lawns at dawn picking up the offending issues of the newspaper with the damaging story about her, before they can be read over morning coffee by her neighbors.  A moment of truth and feeling in an otherwise dead and limp movie. With direction by Sydney Pollock and a script (also Oscar nominated), by Kurt Luedtke.  The good supporting cast includes Bob Balaban, Wilford  Brimley and Josef Sommer.


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