XL Popcorn – Diner

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 632/1007
Title: Diner
Director: Barry Levinson
Year: 1982
Country: USA

So apparently this is the most recent film that I have seen for the 1001 list since A City of Sadness as well as the continuation of my run of US films. It’s also the latest in a run of films that I’ve watched thanks to a podcast, in this instance a guest appearance made by Paul Reiser on Comedy Bang Bang. Probably would have made more sense to watch this if I knew who he was… I had no idea who I was meant to be looking out for.

Even though I didn’t know who Paul Reiser was there were enough well-known people in this film to keep me occupied. For a lot of them, like Ellen Barkin, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon and Steve Guttenberg, these were early major roles. Similarly this was the directorial debut of Barry ‘Rain Man’ Levinson… so I guess that the point I’m trying to make here is that this was a formative film for many people who found future success.

With this in mind, I probably went into this film with higher expectations that were warranted. As a comedy-drama that is ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the best comedies of all time… I was never had that moment where I could say I was close to chuckling. It’s similar to my experience to American Graffiti and Fast Times At Ridgemont High in that I don’t think I share the same humour. Also, I’m not sure I actually could hand-on-heart say I liked any of the main characters too much.

In Diner we are thrown back to the final weeks of 1959 where a group of male friends reconvene in their hometown in order to attend the wedding of Eddie (Guttenberg). The idea being that in this week these men, having left college, are starting to have the realisation that adulthood beckons. On the face of it this is a great idea for a film and I usually love a period piece. However, the year being 1959 just feels incidental – aside from the technology and the current events it could really have been set in 1980s America, albeit in a bit of a backwater.

Similarly, when you have a film like this you need to at least feel something for the characters so you can bask in their glories and commiserate in their failures. I felt fairly little for any of them apart from Barkin’s character during the argument over the organisation of a record collection.

I’ve been really negative, but it’s not like I hated this film. It was fun enough to watch, especially the scene where they’re all together in the titular diner. When you split the group up… I started to have difficulty telling them apart with the exception of Steve Guttenberg. I guess, in the end, I wish it dug a little deeper.


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