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Early twenty-something Baltimoreans Eddie, Shrevie, Boogie, Billy, Fenwick and Modell have been friends since they were kids, where the center of their lives has been and still is the Fells Point Diner. It's the last week of 1959. Baltimore Colts fanatic Eddie is scheduled to get married to Elyse on New Year's Eve, but may call off the wedding if Elyse doesn't pass his Colts quiz which he will hold two days before the scheduled wedding. Inexperienced Eddie turns to the only other married one among the bunch, electronics salesman and music aficionado Shrevie, for advice, he who may not be the best person from who to ask advice on marriage since he doesn't yet realize that he probably got married to his wife Beth for the wrong reasons. Indeed, Beth, who has lost her sense of identity, is unhappy in their marriage, and contemplates having an affair with someone who provides what she believes is a sympathetic shoulder. Hairdresser and law school student Boogie is the player of the bunch, ... Written by
"There's not that much of a story, really. What do we do? We drive around..." Kevin Bacon
Diner, Barry Levinson's writing and directing debut belongs to so-called "small" or "minor" movies and it indeed does not have spectacular locations, breathtaking action sequences or even dramatic story. As Kevin Bacon comments in the Behind the Scenes Documentary, "There's not that much of a story, really. What do we do? We drive around..." What the movie has is "a very honest portrayal of a group...of guys that people relate to on a very personal level." The different generations of viewers react to film with devotion and recognition, and Diner has become one of the beloved long time cult favorites. Based on its writer/director's memories of growing up in Baltimore, the film takes place during the week between Christmas and New Year in 1959, and tells of the friendship of five guys in their early twenties. During the course of the film, we will get to know the young men, their fears of growing up, facing responsibilities, and making decisions, their fascination and insecurities with the girls.
From his Oscar-nominated script, BL makes the study of young men who hesitate to grow up but rather hang out in their beloved Diner. Daniel Stern's 'Shrevie' is an owner of LP collection that he seems to value more than his young and pretty wife (Ellen Barkin in her film debut). Mickey Rourke, played his best role (at least, IMO) as Boogy, the cynical womanizer with the most charming smile. Steve Guttenberg's Eddie puts his fiancée through the enormously difficult football quiz and the passing score is the must for the marriage because he is scared to get married. Kevin Bacon plays Fenwick, a permanently drunk and lost kid, the character much darker than the rest of the guys. Timothy Daly is Bill who seems to be the most successful of the bunch, and know what he wants but can't make the girl he loves to love him. By making Diner, Levinson actually put his native city, sleepy and provincial 1959 Baltimore, on the cinema map, and that's just one of movie's pleasures. And there are plenty. Diner is filled with authentic and believable scenes, situations, and conversations that everyone can relate to. The Diner's menu has a lot to offer to the grateful viewers and fans of the insightful, ironic, entertaining, small but bright and shiny gem. Barry Levinson does not flatter six protagonists but he understands them and loves them because he sees in them the indelible part of his own life, his experiences, and his own childhood friends. As another great film about childhood friendship says, "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"
Barry Levinson went on to create many good and very good films after Diner. These are just a few: The Natural, Good Morning, Vietnam; Bugsy; Avalon; Sleepers, An Everlasting Piece, Disclosure, Wag the Dog, and his Oscar winner "Rain Man" but Diner will always have a very special place for me. This is the film I keep coming back to again and again, and as the time passes it only gets better.
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