DINER (1982) 

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Steve Guttenberg
Daniel Stern
Mickey Rourke
Kevin Bacon
Timothy Daly
Ellen Barkin
Paul Reiser
Michael Tucker
Colette Blonigan

Barry Levinson



Time: 110 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Comedy/Drama

Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

I don't remember the first time I saw DINER, but over the years I've watched it again and again. It's one of those films that just makes you smile and yearn for the days when friendship was the only thing that mattered. I think this film is Levinson's best, maybe because it's the one closest to his own life. The characters are far from perfect and aren't always likable, but you'll love spending time with them. The film doesn't really have much of a plot. It's more about situations and emotions, what's happening to this group of friends as they cross the threshold to adulthood. It takes place over a long weekend and centers around the upcoming marriage of one of the gang. The wedding gives the group a reason to get together, to hang out at the diner one final time before another of them takes the plunge. Which will only happen if the fianceé passes a demanding sports quiz. Very juvenile, but extremely funny, which pretty much describes this movie as a whole. Though not juvenile in a DUMB AND DUMBER kind of way.

These characters are just trying to live out life like Peter Pan. All fun and games, no responsibilities. Most of the group is aimless and single, just trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Shrevie (Stern) is the only married member and though he loves his wife Beth (Barkin), he's no longer sure why they ever got together. They have nothing in common and the gap between them is growing by the day. Not sure whether he wants to get married, Eddie (Guttenberg) devises this incredibly hard quiz no woman would be able to pass, especially in the late 50s, in order to have a way out. Why anyone would want to marry such a man is never answered, but then again this is a comedy. Mickey Rourke, in one of the only good roles he's ever had, plays Boogie, a consummate gambler and ladies man with a heart of gold. Kevin Bacon, in his first major screen role, plays the wacky, irresponsible, drunk, upper class, Fenwick. His antics give the film some of its' greatest laughs, though it's obvious his character is in more mental pain than he'd ever admit.

"All I did was I parked the car on a nice lonely road, I looked at her, and I said "f**k or fight."

Timothy Daly plays Billy, the responsible friend that moved away and has a real life. Unfortunately for him, he's in love with a woman he knocked up, who doesn't want to marry him. The only one who wants to move on with his life is the only one who can't. Paul Reiser has a small but significant role as Modell. He's the annoying friend who mooches off everybody in some of the funniest scenes in the film. He may not have a big part, but he sure is memorable. Their plans for the weekend are pretty standard. They attend a dance where Fenwick and Boogie try to pick up chicks. They succeed in a fashion, but don't get anywhere physically due to Fenwick's crazy nature. They go to the movies where Boogie tries to make money on a bet you have to see to believe. He needs the money to cover a larger loss from a bookie who's threatening bodily harm. Eddie administers "the test" in the hopes that he won't actually have to get married. Fenwick gets rip-roaring drunk and gets in a fight with a life-size nativity over the loss of Baby Jesus. It's just one absurd situation after another with each evening ending at the diner, where they spend hours eating greasy food, drinking bad coffee and arguing over movies, music and life in general.

It is these scenes that are the most poignant and funny, mainly because we've all lived through moments like them at some point in our lives. What's most amazing about DINER is the cast, who were virtually all unknowns. They give dead-on performances and make what could have been a mediocre story into a great one. The dialogue and music help round out the film's perfection, imprinting a certain moment in time onto celluloid. It doesn't matter that I've seen this movie over and over, I always look forward to spending time in this world, hanging out with these guys. The DVD is great, with many special features and a brand new featurette that talks about the making of the film. DINER showcased Barry Levinson's talent as a director. It's too bad he hasn't really made anything that comes close to the quality of this film since. If you haven't seen DINER, you're truly missing a cinema gem. I guarantee it will become one of your favorite movies.

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