Monday, December 28, 2009

The Pickle (1993)

Alright parable for Paul Mazursky's own career, with a wannabe-Fellini overtone that reveals the whole thing to be as derivative and trashy as it is. Danny Aiello plays, ostensibly, Mazursky, a director who, desperate for a hit (god what a cliche), takes a job directing a movie about a flying pickle and a planet of spandex-wearing aliens that only live to 48 (including Isabella Rosellini, Little Richard, and Griffin Dunne). On the night of the premiere, he drowns himself in booze, pills, and women in an attempt to soften the blow he is sure the film is going to give to his career. The decadent indulgence, along with his sporadic laments over the glorious idealized films he never got to make, such as a version of Cortez and Montezuma with Beatty and Hoffman (this part's actually played seriously), almost become a parody of Fellini, with the grand intentions and self-importance but none of the production value, creativity, or energy to back it up. The movie is never funny enough to be a comedy, never moving enough to be a drama, and never entertaining enough to be something in between.

That being said, the performances are pretty spot on. Aiello plays Mazursky to the T, allowing the hypocrisy of the chubby, faux artiste who sleeps with his similarly-aged ex-wife the same day as his 22 year-old girlfriend to shine right on the surface; you cannot fault Mazursky with having too much ego (never mind...on the dvd he says the characters not based on him PSHHH). Dyan Cannon, as his ex, is lively and humorous, while Clotilde Courau, as his mistress, is wide-eyed and sympathetic. Chris Penn, Jerry Stiller, Shelly Winters (as Aiello's mom), and Barry Miller turn in strong work to accentuate their terribly underwritten parts; this is Mazursky's show, about Mazursky, all other denizens of the world be damned. But the best moments in the film belong to the film within the film, The Pickle, sending up all the contrivance and forced sentimentality of 80s and early 90s Hollywood with pitch-perfect accuracy. E.T. and Howard the Duck seem particularly evoked in these scenes. Dudley Moore has his last great role from within the film, delivering the line, "It's a bird, it's a plane...IT'S A PICKLE!"

Slightly Recommended for fans of Mazursky, Aiello, or Fellini knock-offs about floundering filmmakers stuggling for relevance. I am not in the latter catagory, so this film didn't really work for me. Then again, neither does much of Fellini...

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