The Best of Times (1986, Roger Spottiswoode)
Starring: Robin Williams, Kurt Russell, Pamela Reed, Jack Palance's daughter, Donald Moffat, ‘Iron Jaws’ Wilson, Eloy P. Casados.
Box Notables: ‘Crown Video, Walsall – No.1 For Video Leasing’ sticker.
Tagline: ‘A film with a catch (or two)’
Trailers: Beer Academy, A Catered Affair, Neap Tide
Cherrypick: “Beirut?! What do you know about Beirut?!?”
“Beirut…… he de best damn baseball player ever lived!”
An oft-repeated production mantra of the ERH dynasty insisted that the recipe for acrid, black glucose scrapings and that of pan-fried candyfloss was one and the same. And whilst this sidelong aphorism might initially appear to be a judicious meditation on the ultimately ineffable mysteries of - to borrow John Boorman’s handsome phrase - turning money into light, it is, upon only a moment’s reflection, a carefree admission that the cock-heeled assclowns of the Incoherent Empire didn’t have a blind cobbler’s clue as to what they were doing.
Russell essays Reno Hightower, the Dexter St. Jock of the piece – all teeth and wounded pride. Now eking out a living as Kern County’s premier pointillist van customizer, Reno was the crash-hot quarterback who threw that spinning javelin of hope through the sentimentally misremembered, pot-tinged night only to see it slip through Jack’s fingers, skid through the mud and bounce off a tree. His All-American aspirations followed much the same path. The blue-collar Banquo to Jack’s Lady Macbeth, Reno doesn’t quite share his old team-mate’s demented obsession, but when one day Jack reminds him how much primo tail they used to get back in their playing days, a replay of the big game is set up before you can say ‘Ineligible Receiver’. Cue ninety minutes of bizarre oilfield-bound training montages and top-notch redneck ribaldry (plus T&A).
|Place your bets!|
Russell, particularly, outdoes himself on this score, sketching a far subtler pasquinade than the hillbilly rage with which he invested Overboard, or the Swiftian excesses of his Used Cars…
When denim Dostoevsky Bruce Springsteen sang about going “down to the river”, he was almost certainly referring to the mighty river that flows through Taft (if, indeed, it has one), but with these men on the fourth down and thirty of life, and time-outs receding as fast as the fading taillights of America’s increasingly tangible Middle Classes, the fatalism that marked The Boss’s lengthy ‘Po’ folk don’t ‘speck much’ ballad is, temporarily at least, chucked-and-ducked by one last heaven bound Hail Mary.
|Go long, Jack|
The ball spirals into the inky night. The screen, overburdened with emotion and numbed by predictability, fades to black…
Go long, Jack. Go long...
Originally published in Little White Lies #7