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I know this film bombed and has some platitudes that are unbelievable
script-wise, but I can't believe the ratings people give this. I've been
searching for this film for years (having seen in 1970) and it's haunted me.
Newman, Woodward, and T. Perkins are awesome with an interesting character
by Cloris Leachman. I love the script that has some holes, but 1970 was the
perfect year for this type of story.
No matter what your political stance is OR was, this has something for everyone. Throw in Pat Hingle and Laurence Harvey as a preacher, it's Americana at it's most corrupt in a turbulent time (that I almost miss). If you can find this somewhere, give it a shot. An 8 out of 10. Best performance = Anthony Perkins.
This one of my favorite movies of all time with Paul Newman, Joanne
Woodward, Antony Perkins, Cloris Leachman and Pat Hingle all at their
best. Reinhart (Newman), a man who's washed up as a musician becomes a
"communicator" at WUSA, a right-wing radio station in New Orleans. He
is not an ideologue himself not a Rush Limbaugh character just an
employee, a DJ I think he reads the news. But the fact that he works
there at all paints him a right winger to his antagonist played by
Perkins. The film contains some of my favorite lines of dialog in film,
like when Reinhart gets the job and Leachman is thrilled. "Yeah, just
great. I'm part of a pattern in someone else's head." He's long past
There are two important and tense scenes between Perkins, a do-gooder who lacks the basic confidence that gets Newman shacked up within minutes of his arrival in New Orleans. In one of them, Perkins stutters through his outrage, wanting to know what's going on at WUSA. Newman coolly listens and responds acidly: "I understand your situation... because I too am a moralist." Perkins responds with a smirk and an "oh yeah, right" which Newman cuts off, "...but there IS a solution to your dilemma..." to which Perkins stammers "a-a-and w-w-w-what w-would that be Reinhart?" Newman's smile disappears and he responds with his thumbs down: "Drop dead." He repeats the line with all the rage and contempt he can muster, all his feelings so twisted inside him that he can barely function. The feelings Perkins needs to make him feel competent Newman has felt too and they have hollowed him out. Newman's not right wing. He's just beat. Dropped out. If you don't know that, you don't understand where Reinhart's coming from. He's a sleepwalking man but mostly he is as disappointed and disillusioned as a man can be. Unfortunately, the character played by Perkins is much better at retaining his illusions with tragic consequences.
This movie is about ideological exhaustion and the delusions of the ideologically pure, both left and right wing.
What is so good about WUSA for me is that it's the only time, other than Hud, when Newman was an actor first, a star second. And this one's the grittiest. The reason for its unpopularity is that it is uncompromisingly honest about a political situation which to some extent still exists today. It really comes down on neither side of the political divide or, to be more accurate, pretty gruesomely insults both, thus satisfying no one who expects a movie to be partisan. It's ironic that it's hated because it is a "message movie."
As a relatively recent resident of the US, I continue to be astonished at how quickly American audiences forget their own history. I saw WUSA many years ago when I still lived in my native Italy (the Italian version was titled "Un Uomo Oggi" = "A Man Today"!). Two snippets of the film have been with me for all these years. The first is the radio host that invites all to drop what they are doing, go to the window, open it, and start screaming something like "I am fed up and I will no longer put up with this!" The second snippet is the last line delivered in the movie by the character interpreted by Paul Newman -- and I will not say what it says to avoid spoiling it. The themes are big and understandably audiences nowadays are impatient of 'dialog that sounds like speeches' (to quote an unfair reviewer on this site). The south, the issues of bigotry, racism, the Seventies, civic disobedience. At least the dialog has something to say, unlike so many films of the past 30 years. There is so much recent American history in this movie that it should be a mandatory assignment for college-age kids. Most people happily ignore its existence. Is there a way to convince anyone to make this piece available in DVD? It is too important to be neglected. No matter what Roger Greenspun says in his review appeared in the New York Times of November 2, 1970. In those days the Vietnam War coverage in the media made every single political reference seem like another opportunity for constipated American audiences to launch into yet one more conspiracy theory. And the Grenspun review blames WUSA for being 'ponderously allusive'. Maybe, with the hiatus of the past thirty-something years, the allusiveness will seem by now much less allusive and, who knows, we might enjoy this beautiful rendition of Robert Stone's novel. Besides the big issues, however, the movie is quite enjoyable. My vote of 8 only evaluates the viewing pleasure as entertainment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Perhaps because the drama is so overwrought, Newman's acute
underplaying is effective
Rheinhardt is his most thorough cynic: a
failure at marriage and as a musician, he's become a wandering,
alcoholic opportunist, so spineless and corrupt he thinks nothing of
taking a job as announcer for WUSA
At lasta Newman character who's
abandoned all ideals, ambitions and principles, who concentrates
exclusively on surviving at all costs
He's even worse than "Hud," because he realizes his corruption but persists In fact, he uses his self-knowledge to pretend superiorityto laugh secretly at the Neo-Fascists, while working for them He acts cynically and viciously toward liberal Do-Gooders because presumably he "knows the score," although he really envies their idealism; and he rises above it all to a liquor-soaked detachment His only ability is the put-ononce the essence of Harper's charm, now exposed as the weapon of a destructive mind
Rheinhardt's first appearancehe drifts into New Orleans, unshaven, tired, defeated, brokeis like Fast Eddie's after his loss to Fats Like Eddie, he picks up a despairing, fallen woman, Geraldine (Joanne Woodward), a former hooker who, like Sarah, is physically and emotionally scarred As always, Woodward flawlessly portrays the fragile, easily hurt woman who is wary of Newman, but who ends up giving him more affection than he can return They have some tender scenes, but with her, as with everyone else, he's most1y indifferent and uninvolved
"WUSA" suffers from conversations that sound like speeches, heavy-handed direction, and a paradoxical reluctance really to meet the issues head-on
I have to agree with those who praise this film and realize that its not everyone's cup of tea. Although I appreciate the criticisms that some reviewers have leveled, it is wise to keep in mind that it is unfair to criticize a film 30+ years after its release through a contemporary lens. The sense of humor that some have found "lacking" is something that develops with the objectivity of lapsed time. During the late 1960's, many of us found little humor in the assassinations and general insanity that seemed to fill the political landscape. Like the previous reviewer, I, too, have been looking for this film for years and hope to see it on DVD one day soon. I found it to be a powerful piece.
It's one of the best examples of the kind of American films that they don't know how to make anymore in the US. It made a huge impression on me when I was 15 and again 10 years later. Newman might not be at his best but he conveys exactly what's needed - moral corruption and self-disgust. Joanne Woodward's turn is a masterclass, such raw intensity it's almost unbearable to watch. Anthony Perkins is touching and vulnerable, his performance is so emotionally honest it's devastating to witness and his character would be at home in any of the best of Tennessee Williams' works - once more he proves that he deserves to be remembered for much more than just his masterpiece - that N.B. - It's a perennial shame on the Academy that he was not even nominated for such work as in this film as well as in "Play as it Lays", "Fear Strikes Out", "The Trial" and, of course, "Psycho" and "Psycho II" - one of the greatest talents ever to be wasted by Hollywood. A masterpiece from an unforgettable era in movie-making history.
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.
Ok, first of all, I definately do not see why all of you don't like this
movie!!! I absolutely loved it. I was mesmerized by Joanne Woodward
performance....WOW! Paul Newman, I'll admit, wasn't at his greatest. Tony
Perkins and Joanne Woodward, however, made up for it! And those scenes
between Woodward and Newman! The chemistry that comes with being married
they are in real life) just comes right through the scene!
Great movie! Very moving.
It is easy to go to 1970's and recapture the era. So many movies wanted to deal with the politics of the time. Parallax View with Warren Beatty, Twilight's Last Gleaming with Burt Lancaster, This movie was part of that attempt. However, unlike the excellent political movies of the 1960's, this movie lacked the quality of writing a Rod Serling and his peers brought to the table. So to truly enjoy this movie,overlook the heavy handed dialogue. Ignore the 1970's film making style and enjoy the excellent cast of actors. For its time it was an excellent movie. Looking at it today I still see the excellence but it has an eerie familiarity to today. Replace WUSA and there staring back at you is Murdoch and his Fox team. That sends a shiver up my spine.
"WUSA" was a box office failure when it was released to theaters, was not resurrected that much on television, and it never got a home video release until recently. Seeing it, I think I can understand why there aren't that many people supporting the movie over the years. One big mistake the movie makes is with the radio station itself. It's supposed to be an influential and controversial radio station, but the movie seems very shy in showing it to us. It takes over a half hour from the beginning for Newman to start working for the radio station, and not once during the almost two hour running time do we actually get to HEAR the broadcasts that have both attracted an audience as well as people condemning it. The acting (particularly by Perkins) is good, and the movie is refreshingly downbeat, but overall I would only recommend the movie to those few viewers who are attracted to 1970s film cynicism - and even they might have issues with the movie.
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