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An aspiring Jewish actor moves out of his parents' Brooklyn apartment to seek his fortune in the bohemian life of Greenwich Village in 1953. He struggles to come to terms with his feelings about his mother's overbearing nature, while also trying to maintain his relationship with his girlfriend. Written by
Admittedly I come to this film with a deep prejudice. Though it's set in 1953, it was released in 1976, the same year I moved to Greenwich Village. In fact, much of the movie looks to have been filmed about two blocks west of where I lived for 30 years.
For a young person moving to Greenwich Village, there's something timeless about the experience, as this film shows. Directed by Paul Mazursky, the film stars Lenny Baker, Shelley Winters, Ellen Greene, Christopher Walken, Lois Smith, and Dori Brenner. Baker is an aspiring young actor named Larry Lapinsky, who leaves his parents' apartment and his sobbing mother (Winters) to take a place in the Village. There, he gets a day job, a girlfriend (Greene), a group of bizarre friends, and starts acting class. He uses a liquor bottle he finds at the subway as an Oscar and thanks the Academy while he waits for a train; he does impressions of Brando for a cop; he does a scene from Golden Boy for class.
Mazursky has left nothing out, not the overblown egomaniacal young actor (Jeff Goldblum) whom Larry meets at an audition, the bipolar young woman (Smith), the gay friend (Antonio Fargas), the poser who's a chick magnet (Walken), and everybody's friend destined to be unlucky in love (Brenner). It's a madcap, free, painful, and sobering existence.
Baker is wonderful as Larry, anxious to get out and live. He's very likable. Shelley Winters is a riot as the Jussi Bjorling-loving Faye Lapinsky, who keeps dropping in and bringing food while she and her husband are in the neighborhood. At one point, she is so convincing telling Sarah (Greene) that she doesn't care if Sarah has been having sex with Larry, that Sarah admits to it, thus driving Faye into such a state that Sarah claims she lied. Lois Smith is very effective as the neurotic Anita. Dori Brenner does a great job as the caring friend, and Christopher Walken strikes the right balance as the enigmatic, distant Robert.
Highly recommended, and if you've ever lived in Greenwich Village, or tried to be an actor in New York, don't miss it.
What makes the film is the New York energy and the locations - many of which still exist, Village Cigars, Smiler's, the lamp store, Julius' bar, the whole Christopher Street area.
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