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When it was released in 1978, there was already a distance built into
The Big Fix, based on a detective novel set in the ashes of the
counterculture. The story had been commissioned by Rolling Stone
magazine from Roger L. Simon, who wrote the script. On its release, the
film was already drawing on images of the late 60s that had ceased to
be memories but had already entered a misty mythology.
Richard Dreyfuss, fresh from the Spielberg hits (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) that had made him a star. not to mention his Academy Award for The Goodbye Girl), plays Moses Wine, aonetime rebel who has fallen on hardtimes. His wife, Bonnie Bedelia, has divorced him (though he dotes --rather tiresomely -- on his two sons), and he earns his keep as aprivate investigator when not smoking up and playing solitaire Clue in his -- there's no other word -- "pad."
Operatives of a political campaign sign him on to find out who is waging a dirty-tricks campaign to link their candidate to a legendary radical, now disappeared deep into the underground. The story has some interesting twists, particularly those involving Susan Anspach, John Lithgow and F. Murray Abraham, but the plot tends to disappear into holes here and there, as though told in a marijuana haze.
Viewed in the new millennium, The Big Fix unfolds behind two scrims of nostalgia: The one in the story itself, where 60s has-beens, unhappy with how the world has turned, yearn for barricades and love-ins; and the one revealed by the talents who made the movie, where that yearning for the heady days of the counterculture -- Berkeley! Vietnam! Hash brownies! -- has developed its own, peculiarly fusty period flavor.
The Big Fix is a mystery that does not answer every question that it
raises, but it nails the Zeitgeist of the late 60's from a vantage
point 10 years later. I have only seen it once, when it first came out
and I have looked for it ever since.
The story is slow to develop with Moses Wine (Dreyfuss) having trouble with seemingly every aspect of his life. We learn that he feels displaced in time, and cannot get past the radical time in his life. I and many others have had those same feelings in the 35+ years since.
The sense of confusion and struggle fits exactly the feelings many of us experienced at the time. Taught to respect the police by our Greatest Generation parents, we often found that we were at the top of the police list of suspects for anything from subversion to bad manners and bad dress. The sense of alienation that I felt at the time permeates the viewing. I may have read too much of myself into it; if so, The Big Fix evoked it from my own life.
Best scenes without spoiling the story:
Leon Redbone's "I Wanna Be Seduced" while Moses gets ready for a date with Lila Shay (Anspach).
Moses at the TV station reviewing scenes of past demonstrations; the images are shown projected on his face. No real detail is visible except the tears on his cheeks. Powerful.
The reunion of old friends as they dance around the swimming pool of the house that was built by selling out the old radical values.
Finally, a sense of something incomplete at the end. The mystery solved, but every question not answered. How true to life!
Vastly underrated sleeper which could be described as the 60s meet the 40s in the 70s. Never seems to show up on late night TV(and I have 35+ movie channels). Well worth a look if you can find it. And whatever happened to Susan Anspach? She deserved more of a career
Okay, the 30's had Sam Spade, the 40's had Philip Marlowe, and the 50's
had Cold War PI, Mike Hammer. So why shouldn't the 60's have its iconic
private dick too. His name is Moses Wine. He stands 5-5, wears glasses
and exercises on a skateboard. His hard knocks' schooling is courtesy
the Berkeley college of street protest and radical rhetoric, where he
majored in Pinko Studies and How to Grind Up the Establishment. There
are no stacked blondes in his life, only an ex-wife hitting him up for
child support and two little boys he takes on cases when he can't find
a sitter. He wouldn't know a fedora from a fez, a Lucky Strike from a
Pall Mall, or a whiskey and soda from a scotch and water. And instead
of bashing evil-doers-- such as people who call him a "liberal"-- he
pickets their house. On the other hand, if things get really rough, he
can put in a call to the ghetto or the radical underground or even a
cop siren when a door gets grease-gunned to death. In short, Moses Wine
is Mike Hammer's worst nightmare come true.
In the Big Fix, Wine (Richard Dreyfuss) is on the trail of somebody, it's not always clear who. But it has something to do with sabotaging a political campaign. Turns out it's the campaign of a liberal politician, of all people, but then Wine needs the money, and besides everyone else has trimmed their hair and sold out-- so why shouldn't he. Along the way, he meets some interesting types, like the establishment barracuda (Fritz Weaver), and the movie's versions of Abbie Hoffman (F. Murray Abraham) and maybe the Symbionese Liberation Army's Bill and Emily Harris (Bloch & Grody). But my favorite is his crusty old aunt. She's sort of the stand-in for every old lefty who never gave up the labor fight. Now she spends her time in a Jewish old age home, debating the fine points of anarchist theory and telling touring politicians how things really are. So naturally, when Wine bursts into the opening refrain of the Internationale, we know where the inspiration comes from and, more importantly, where he comes from.
Sure the mystery's about as clear as air quality in downtown LA. So don't expect a tidy wrap-up. But then the great Raymond Chandler figured life doesn't come in tidy packages either. Anyway, don't expect to see this one-of-a-kind at the White House any time soon or even at your local Democratic headquarters. But it is well acted and produced, with a lot of humorous touches and an approach that thankfully never gets heavy- handed. So thanks be to co-producer Dreyfuss for daring to entertain where politically correct Hollywood has long feared to tread.
This is the best movie Richard Dreyfus has been in. Corruption and dirty tricks in a senatorial campaign directed by John Lithgow, an Abbie Hoffman character played by F. Murray Abraham, not a little comedy and a heaping of social commentary a la 60's style make this a highly recommended movie. I hope it comes out on DVD soon.
An excellent film for Dreyfus. At this point (1978), the best known films with Dreyfus were "American Graffiti"(1973), "Jaws"(1975), "The Goodbye Girl"(1976) and "Close Encounters"(1977). Dreyfus did a great job inviting the viewer in and sharing his (Moses Wine's) feelings about the late 60's and its effects on the students at Univ of California Berkley. Wine wanders aimlessly to find out who is pitting various ethnic and political groups, etc. against each other. He does not find out who the true enemy is until the end of the movie. You won't either. John Lithgow also appears in one of his first films. Look for Mandy Patinkin as the pool cleaner. F. Murray Abraham and Susan Anspach also star.
****SOME SPOILERS*****Sharp and feisty movie about ex-1960's radical
who's having a hard time making child support payments for his two
kids. while trying to support himself as a small time private
investigator in LA.
Moses Wine, Richard Dreyfuss, at home one night watching a football game that he bet on is contacted by an old flame back from his radical days in collage Lila, Susan Anspach. Lila wants Moses to work for a candidate for governor of California, Milles Hawthorne. Moses goes along with Lila to the Hawthorne campaign headquarters even though Moses is apposed to his policies as well as having a low opinion of Hawthorne's intellect. "This is a guy who thinks that Captain Kangaroo is too controversial" Moses tells Lila about the person she want's to get elected.
Told by Hawthorne's campaign manager Sam Sebastian, John Lithgow, that there's a flayer being distributed around the state with a doctored photo of Hawthorne and radical Howard Eppis, who's on the lamb from the police since he was convicted for inciting violence against the government. The phony flayer is telling everyone that Eppis is supporting Hawthorne for governor, which is not true, which will destroy Howthorne's chances for being elected and Sabastian want's Moses, a private eye, to find out who's disturbing it.
Moses and Lila go underground in the radical movement to find out who's behind these flayers and this whole Eppis mania. One night Moses goes over to Lila's home for a quite and uneventful dinner dinner and finds her murdered. Moses after overcoming the shock and grief of Lila's tragic death now has a more personal interest in the Hawthorne/Eppis case since he feels that Lila's murder was because of it.
Going on his own Moses starts to make inroads in his search for the elusive Howard Eppis and runs into people who in the past were supporters of Eppis who would now want to break Howard Eppis's neck. A group of radical Mexicans farm workers who's leader Louis Vasqaz, who had mysteriously vanished, felt that Eppis is a phony and an opportunist There's also the very wealthy industrialist Oscar Procari Sr. Fritz Weaver who holds Eppis responsible for his son's conviction for attempting to overthrow the government and flight from the law. This is due his involvement with Eppis in what was called the trial of the California Four.
Later Moses is picked up by the FBI and grilled by them about what he knows about Howard Eppis. It seems that everyone in the state of California wants to know where is Howard Eppis? It comes out later that someone that Moses came in contact with in the movie came up with an hair-brain scheme to blow up a section of the California freeway and blame in on Howard Eppis. This insane plan at the same time will destroy the Hawthorne campaign for governor by making it look like that Eppis was supporting him but who is it? and why was Lila murdered? did she stumble across something that if made public would blow the whole hair-brain scheme?
Richard Dreyfuss was never better then he was in "The Big Fix" With a wonderful supporting cast that carried the story from it's delightful and funny beginning to it's tense and griping final conclusion. And speaking of casts it was hilarious how Moses who was wearing a cast on his right hand, during the entire movie, came up with different reasons when anyone asked him how he broke his hand according to what their political or moral positions were.
Roger L. Simon adapted his own novel about how the wonderful/volatile, idealistic 1960s evolved into this cynical age, the corrupt and immoral 1970s. One-time student activist from Berkeley, now a weekend-dad working as a private eye, becomes involved in a case of political dirty pool when the liberal elect for California's governor is falsely implicated in a partnership with a fugitive radical. Star Richard Dreyfuss, one of the top actors at the time (following "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and his Oscar win for 1977's "The Goodbye Girl"), also co-produced this mystery yarn, turning it into a wan and wholly unconvincing actor's showpiece. Sporting a shaggy, curly hairstyle and a thick mustache, Dreyfuss isn't quite at home in these plastic, fake-noir surroundings--he doesn't even try to assimilate himself; whether he's fighting with his ex-wife or romancing a former girlfriend, the actor is relying on externals and shtick (that of a raffish Jewish snookums) to take the place of a performance, something which director Jeremy Paul Kagan appears to be complicit with. Dulled-out and bland, the picture certainly isn't helped by Bill Conti's obtrusive music, nor by Frank Stanley's muddy cinematography. A minor hit at the box-office, the film was quickly forgotten in the wake of Dreyfuss' movie hot streak coming to an end. *1/2 from ****
This movie and John Sayles's "The Return of the Secaucus Seven" are the
best movies I know about the post-hippie years.
"The Big Fix" is funny, fast, and smart -- and also touching. The scenes of the old activists in jail and around the swimming pool are touched with aching nostalgia. Richard Dreyfuss plays an adorable, idealistic nebbish who really thought the future was going to hold more than EST trainers and deteriorating VW Beetles. I think it's his best performance (though "Inserts" was also fine).
I have read the book on which this was based, and it is not only nothing like the movie but considerably worse than the movie. This is one case ("Roger Rabbit" is another) in which the Hollywood rewrite was a noticeable improvement over the original.
Saw this in the theatre back when it was first released. In a nutshell, my problem with this film is that the entire plot is revealed in the first five minutes with nothing else to show for it. Of course, this was not understood as the film unfolds, so the rest of the hour and a half you're anticipating that something significant, or even interesting, is about to happen, and it never does. Only when the credits start rolling does it become clear that you just wasted an hour and a half of your life. I'm quite certain that I've invested more emotional capital in this film writing this review than anyone involved in making it. Just a crappy film.
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