Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Local Hero (1983)

Heartwarming, surprisingly schmaltz-lite comedy about a representative for an American conglomerate who ventures to a small Scottish community in an attempt to buy the oil rights to the region. Peter Riegert plays the titular character, a through-and-through yuppie who flies into the small town fully aware of his fish-out-of-water status; the great joy of the movie is that, rather than realize how different he is from the townsfolk, he almost subconsciously finds comfort in their eccentricities, their amicability, and, in a delightful touch, their fully visible, smog-free sky. Burt Lancaster is on board as the corporate exec who sends Riegert on his quest, but rather than play another variation of his J.J. Hunsecker character from Sweet Sell of Success, he portrays him as a rather daffy, open-minded old codger; one infers that after a life of making harsh deals, compromises, and downsizing, he has just as much of his humanity left to discover as Riegert. The townspeople are neither morally flawless country bumpkins, nor Twin Peaks-esque Log Ladies and Men from Another Place, but rather normal folk whose patient, relaxed lifestyles stem directly from their environment. Another delightful, transcendental quality of the film is the score by Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler; defying both cliche and his own signature style, he provides various themes that are both appropriately moody and remarkably un-80's, despite the era.

Highly Recommended for fans of heartwarming, yet unconventional human comedies, such as Withnail & I and the original, 1981 Arthur. I am not easily won over by this type of film, where the character arcs are essentially telegraphed from the first reel, but this one rolled out with such unabashed optimism, human nuance, and defiance of cliche and expectation that I could not help adore the film by the near-brilliant finale.

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