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Rheinhardt, a cynical drifter, gets a job as an announcer for right-wing radio station WUSA in New Orleans. Rheinhardt is content to parrot WUSA's reactionary editorial stance on the air, even if he doesn't agree with it. Rheinhardt finds his cynical detachment challenged by a lady friend, Geraldine, and by Rainey, a neighbor and troubled idealist who becomes aware of WUSA's sinister, hidden purpose. And when events start spinning out of control, even Rheinhardt finds he must take a stand. Written by
Eugene Kim <email@example.com>
First, the man took a drink, friends. Then the drink took a drink. Then the drink took the man. Now that could be the end of the story. But because there is a power greater than ours that man was able to raise himself up and walk again in the sunlight of grace. Dearly beloved, that young man was myself.
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I think this is one of Newman's better films, on the level of Hud and The Hustler. Newman plays Reinhart, a man at the end of his rope. He's finished. He's quit. He has no hopes. He used to play saxophone but he couldn't make the scene so he's a "communicator" now, having gotten himself a job at WUSA, a right-wing radio station.
He meets Geraldine (Joanne Woodward) who hasn't. She's got a story. She was married once and the boy put a gun to his head. I guess casting her as a prostitute was the only way they could think of telling a story of a guy moving in with a girl that quickly in 1970. But what's important is the story she has to tell and how Reinhart fits into that story. Other than that glitch the acting is superb and the dialog superlative.
Perkins plays a creepy bleeding heart, appropriately named Rainey, with such authority that it's enough in itself to make you understand Reinhart's cynicism. "W-W-W-W-What's going on R-R-R-R-Reinhardt?" Rainey asks, confronting Reinhart about the goings-on at WUSA. One of Reinhart's hippie friends interrupts: "Go to the zoo and watch the monkeys, man. That's what's going' on."
Reinhart has a different answer: "I too am a moralist," he says with undisguised contempt, "so I understand your dilemma... but there IS a solution to it." "Oh yeah?" responds Rainey, "and w-w-what would that be, Reinhart?" "Drop dead," says Reinhart, "DROP DEAD!" It's one of Reinhart's defining lines, the other being (in reaction to Geraldine's thrill that he's got a job at WUSA) "Yeah, great: I'm part of a pattern in someone else's head.")
If you're interested in the extremes of political personality, this is one of the best. It reminds me of Henry Miller's comment in Reds that people out to solve the world's problems either don't have any of their own or don't have the guts to face them. Reinhart's a man in the middle. He knows his problem and he's not only got no solution - not for him or anyone else - he's pretty certain there is none. Yet he's no nihilist. On the contrary, he's an ideological purist. Like Rainey, Reinhart is appropriately named. Look up "rein" in a German-English dictionary. Welcome to the future. There's likely to be a lot more Reinharts as the years go by. How will we avoid the tragedies that occur when their hopelessness meet our hopes? I hope Paramount releases this movie on DVD one September 11th.
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