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My Favorite Year (1982)
The year the dreams came true.
Filmmaker(s): Richard Benjamin

Fledgling comic Benjy Stone can't believe his luck when his childhood hero, the swashbuckling matinee idol Alan Swann, gets booked to appear on the variety show he writes for. But when Swann arrives, he fails to live up to his silver screen image. Instead, he's a drunken womanizer who suffers from stage fright. Benjy is assigned to look after him before the show, and it's all he can do to keep his former idol from going completely off the rails.

My Favorite Year (1982)

Drinkin and Humpin with Many

I especially appreciate films that fold reality — that somehow build parallel layers of reality and illusion.

Here is the oldest formula for folding, but done better than anywhere I know.

On the first layer, we have the reality of O’Toole, a once-energetic actor brought low (and nearly killed) by drinkin and humpin with buddies Richard Harris and Richard Burton. What a sight that competition must have been. Then we have him on another level as our character Swann who himself is an actor confused with the roles he plays.

Fresh from a similar but more nuanced role in “Stunt Man”, O’Toole shifts among these three layers with aplomb. He is extraordinary, but the situation would not have been, were it not for all the little multilayered embellishments:

  • Real life Brooks (the man behind the production) appears as a character, Sy Benson, the guy who writes for the stage no less.
  • Another character, Kaiser, is a portrayal of real life Caesar

so far, still pretty ordinary but then:

  • the writer and the actor write a skit that parodies a “real” man, taking the actor/real levelling in a new dimension. And of course that “real” man is a film stereotype himself.

That’s pretty sophisticated structure. Its not highly cinematic like deVito would have done (“Smoochy”), instead arranged as the sort of skits depicted in the skits. And it does reference Proust which using his layering devices, just as Brooks had begun in “Elephant Man”.

You get a summary of what this is all about in the first scene, this project is figuratively sex with multiple, simultaneous partners.

Posted in 2003

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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