After some investigation, Robert Benchley finds his nerves are in a bad state. He has the jitters so bad he can't hold his cup still enough to drink his coffee, and he thinks the arrival of...
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British actress Naomie Harris has been nominated for an Oscar for her role as a crack-addicted mother in the 2016 indie drama Moonlight. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some other roles she's played in her career.
After some investigation, Robert Benchley finds his nerves are in a bad state. He has the jitters so bad he can't hold his cup still enough to drink his coffee, and he thinks the arrival of some plumbers is just a giant conspiracy to keep him unnerved. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If we consult Webster's Dictionary for a definition of "neurasthenia," we find that this condition is "an emotional and psychic disorder characterized by impaired functioning in interpersonal relationships, and often by fatigue, depression, feelings of inadequacy, headaches, hypersensitivity to sensory stimulation (as by light or noise), and other psychosomatic symptoms." Sounds rather like a bad hangover, doesn't it? If we consult Robert Benchley, humorist, we find neurasthenia dramatized in a series of hilariously evocative vignettes in this little 10-minute gem, Nothing But Nerves. This is one of Benchley's more enjoyable short comedies, perhaps because what he's really doing here is illustrating a condition he knew intimately: i.e. a bad hangover. It's no state secret that Mr. Benchley took a drink or two on occasion, and it's apparent from his heartfelt performance in this movie that the man knew something about impaired functioning.
Seated at his usual desk Mr. Benchley serves as our host, and also as his traditional cinematic alter ego, Joe Doakes. As narrator, he must contend with a faulty desk lamp that gradually drives him to distraction, while as poor bleary-eyed Doakes, still in his dressing gown, he must deal with a merciless onslaught of psychic disturbances that turn his day into a one-way trip to the Twilight Zone. The phone rings, but no one is there. The cigarette box is empty, but then, mysteriously, it is full of cigarettes. The maid goes into the closet with some magazines . . . and, eventually, reappears in a different part of the house. And then without warning, plumbers arrive and set about doing something noisy and violent to the plumbing. Doakes tries to escape this unwanted intrusion, but, as narrator Benchley astutely points out, "it's not his nemesis he needs to escape, it's his own distorted point of view on life." Doakes winds up a pathetic, hunted creature, but meanwhile our narrator manages to triumph over his own personal nemesis, that damn desk lamp.
This is a good example of Robert Benchley's wry humor, and one of the most successful attempts to capture his written style in the short film format. He was a funny man and a highly charismatic performer, and the passage of time hasn't dimmed his appeal.
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