Sunday, February 21, 2016

OVP: Bloodbrothers (1978)

Film: Bloodbrothers (1978)
Stars: Paul Sorvino, Tony Lo Bianco, Richard Gere, Lelia Goldoni, Yvonne Wilder, Marilu Henner
Director: Robert Mulligan
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Adapted Screenplay)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

Ugh.  I've actually got a whole mess of Oscar-winning and nominated films that I need to review (I'm kind of in a tug-of-war with my time this week with the DVR looking too plump to deny it time but also I have so many reviews I want to get out into the world-time is a precious resource in my universe at the moment).  But for some reason I'm going to start my return to film reviews after not too many in the last week with a look at one of the worst movies I've seen in a while, and that's saying something after the weekend of disappointments I've just endured.  Bloodbrothers, a little-remembered (I'd never heard of it, and it has some decently large names attached) film from the late 1970's got an inexplicable nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and so as a result I was forced to endure (in the good name of the Oscar Viewing Project) a chauvinistic, nasty piece of work about a poor Italian family in the Bronx and the quest for one of its members, Stony (Gere) to find a better life for himself.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film isn't, admittedly, in my wheelhouse to begin with, as I'm currently over the "young man finds himself" routine that the movies seem to rely so heavily upon, but this in particular is a film that grates on almost every level.  The film is utterly predictable, with Stony, an impossibly-gorgeous lug who lives under the shadow of his alcoholic, philandering father and uncle (played by Lo Bianco and Sorvino, respectively), getting a rare opportunity from a doctor who is treating his younger brother for anorexia to get out of the hardhat-union lifestyle that his family has preordained for him.  Stony begins working at a hospital helping children, and starts dating a girl that he previously called the Town Plug or something off-color (played by Marilu Henner in her breakout role before Taxi).  The film has Stony alternating back-and-forth between the hardhat life and pursuing his dream of working with children until, at the end of the film, his mother finds out his father is cheating, we as an audience are forced to endure her first being humiliated by a mentally-imbalanced man in the laundry room while he "relieves himself" in her presence, and then we have to watch her beaten, and then the screenplay has the audacity to have us try and feel sorry for not just her attacker, but pretty much everyone involved.

Stony gets away, but the script itself is so bad and sexist you half expect him to just stick around and get back together with Henner's Annette, even after repeatedly humiliating her.  The film suffers from not only a predictable plot, but one with very few likable characters.  Stony is meant to be a kind guy, but in many ways he's just like his father and uncle, and really the only nice thing about him is that he's a good older brother, we just forgive him more because he looks like Michelangelo's David.  The film might have something interesting to say about Henner, but her role is really just window dressing.  On the flip side, the movie frequently gives way to all of Lo Bianco's machismo, and we see him moan, sigh, and grunt so frequently you have the feeling the director had no opinion on the character and the way he's supposed to be shaped.  There's literally nothing redeeming about him, and the way he treats his family is appalling, but the script feels too complicit in trying to make him seem complicated when he's not-he's just a jackass.  However, Lo Bianco somehow doesn't give the worst performance in the film.  That prize goes to Lelia Goldoni, who does some of the worst acting I've ever seen in a major motion picture, certainly one that was nominated for an Academy Award.  Goldoni is awful as a mother who can't decide if she's psychotic or just deranged by anger at her situation in life, but she's a truly terrible human being and one that it's hard to feel for as Stony tries to forgive she and her father when he leaves their life behind.  Goldoni's performance makes Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest seem like a Charlotte Rampling-level act of subtlety.

The film's nomination is perplexing-was there just a dearth of contenders that year?  Walter Newman is a longtime favorite in Hollywood and wrote two other more memorable Oscar-blessed screenplays (Ace in the Hole and Cat Ballou), but unless the Academy thought this was actually a renamed version of his legendary Harrow Alley, this is pretty much unforgivable.  The script is predictable, maudlin, and has nothing but 2-dimensional characters.  I know this was a weak year for this category, looking at some of the also-rans, but surely Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?, Death on the Nile, Superman, or Stevie have to be considered a better option than this dreadful movie and more worthy of the title Oscar-nominated.  I shall now not think of it anymore, except perhaps at how it weirdly objectified Richard Gere the entire movie and yet no one commented on his beauty once.  Honestly, it even had time to randomly make a gay guy look bad, because why not?

Those are my thoughts on this aggressively terrible picture-how about yours?  Anyone want to jump to its defense?  What films should have gotten this nomination instead?  And what's your favorite Richard Gere picture?  Share your comments below!

No comments: