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Sometimes it takes a great shock to remind us what our priorities
should be. We may take offense at the suggestion that our ambitions,
our lusts, and our greed are more important to us than the health and
safety and happiness of our loved ones, but how often do we find
ourselves acting as though they are? Sometimes the shock occurs in time
for us to rearrange our priorities. Sometimes it comes too late, and we
can only regret our foolishness.
Garry Marshall's Nothing in Common concerns just such a shock. After 34 years of marriage, Lorraine Basner (Eva Marie Saint) leaves her husband Max (Jackie Gleason) because she can no longer tolerate his oppressive silence. Over the course of three decades he has treated her at best as a roommate, at worst as a handservant. Their marriage is barren, devoid of affection and intimacy. Aside from their son David, they have nothing in common anymore.
Max is devastated by his wife's departure, and too proud to admit it. He would like nothing better than for her to return, but he is unwilling -- perhaps unable -- to protest his love. The shock has come too late for Max and Lorraine, and the blame belongs to both of them. Max has indeed treated his wife shamefully, but she in turn has put up with it. Thirty-four years is a long time to wait before lodging a serious complaint.
The shock has come just in time for David Basner (Tom Hanks), the clever young adman always ready with a line -- for a client, for a girl. He lives a life of constant change, moving blithely from one presentation or seduction to the next, putting together a reel of 60-second commercials and 90-minute relationships as he goes. In his preoccupation with the surfeit of choices in his smorgasbord life, he has denied himself the opportunity to get to know his parents as people and deprived them of the one thing they still have in common, their son. The shock of their separation reminds him that he is neglecting his responsibility to his parents; the discovery that his father will require life-threatening surgery gives added urgency to his renewed interest in their lives.
The shock also gives him pause to reflect on the shape of his own life, to recognize that he has nothing in common with the sleeping partners he picks out like actresses at a cattle call and that the childhood sweetheart with whom he can identify may not be available forever.
Nothing in Common is an adult movie in the true sense of the term. It offers a mature treatment of a subject of extreme importance to adults in a country racked by divorce. It does not resort to nudity, coarse language, or superficial sociological dialogue. It presents the breakup of a marriage as an unmitigated tragedy, not as a grand opportunity for the exploration of narcissism (as is the case with such shallow contemporary films as An Unmarried Woman). It resolutely rejects the irresponsible and amoral lifestyle celebrated in so much of modern culture, and it encourages us to do likewise, by giving us an honest picture of it. Nothing in Common is an adult movie with a PG rating, a fine cast of characters, a skillful director, and an important story to tell.
This is a great movie. It combines several emotional aspects of the
human condition. Classic Tom Hanks humor, emotionally touching realism
as well as some serious drama.
Over the years since it was released I have watched this dozen's of times. I never get tired of it. I am moved as David Basner is forced to face the reality of his parents divorce and tries to build an individual relationship with each of his parents.
I think this is much better than Splash, probably on par with BIG. Of course, just about anything with Tom Hanks is great simply because he is able to carry the load.
The film begins with a barrage of wit from Tom Hanks as an adman whose
business is creativity. And indeed why should he not be witty? But then
we meet his father, who is on his way to dying the death of a salesman,
and his father is just as brilliantly witty. The lines just aren't
lines that ordinary people could come up with. Everyone is a little too
quick with the comedy, and when the comedy pauses, everyone is a little
too quick to come up with the deep but gracefully phrased emotional
revelations. And yet the movie is long; though most of the large cast
of characters is quite undeveloped, still the script has a mighty load
of relationships: Hanks with his father, Hanks with his mother (not so
much), Hanks with two different girlfriends, the father with the
mother, Hanks with his boss, and Hanks with the big client. The big
client is perhaps the worst: the stereotype of the big blowhard who is
charmed when you call him a big blowhard to his face.
I think there were two movies here: the one about the workplace, with a little subplot about the father; and the one about the father, with a little subplot about the workplace. I suspect, with no huge evidence, that someone had an emotional investment in not leaving material out. Some of the details have the ring of autobiography.
Several big talents appear in the movie: not only Jackie Gleason, Tom Hanks, and Eva Marie Saint but also Hector Elizondo and, in a tiny role, Dan Castellaneta. Nobody does anything here that he hasn't done better elsewhere, but still it's good to see them all.
The story line is pretty straight forward, and the production was good,
especially considering the 80's style of movie making. But Tom carries
the movie, with his now-classic mix of rapier wit, sarcasm, and
Tom play David Basner, a talented, slightly arrogant Chicago ad-exec whose parents just split after 50+ years of marriage. Though he has left "the nest" and views his parents as a necessary evil to be dealt with as little as possible, he finds himself providing ever-increasing support to each parent, all the while discovering the frailty and human side of each of them, and discovering what his priorities should be.
A definite watch
I think the movie, "Nothing in Common" was a very wonderful show, from both the perspective of the acting and writing. The evolution of the relationship between the characters of Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason was superb. However, what also had such a high degree of meaning to me was the character development between Tom Hanks and Bess Armstrong. Most especially poignant was the romantic street scene during about the middle of the movie, as the Carly Simon song played, "If It Wasn't Love" when Hanks comes to the realization of what he was letting go..and thus begins to grow up. The eye connection between Hanks and Armstrong as she begins to peddle away toward the end of the song, says it all. No dialog was spoken at all during this scene with the exception of Ms. Simon's lyrics...very moving. Bess Armstrong was wonderful in this role, and I believe much overlooked. She was beautiful inside and out. As another great song once stated, "sometimes, the very thing you're looking for is the one thing you can't see". The movie was the greatest. The actors art seemed effortless, however, that is the sign of a professional. I highly recommend.
I have wanted to see this movie for a while now, and I finally saw it last night. Tom Hanks did a great job, and so did Jackie Gleason. In the 80's Tom Hanks made a lot of unmemorable films(Bachelor Party, The Man With One Red Shoe, Volunteers, The Money Pit, ect.), but this film is much better than all of those. This was also Tom Hanks' first dramatic role. This film is probubly a difficult film to find, but if you can find it, get it and watch it.
This is the movie that convinced me that Tom Hanks would go on one day to be
an Oscar winning actor. In his last screen appearance, "the great one"
Jackie Gleason is perfect as the father who becomes a thorn in his son's
side. With his career in the advertising business going very well, Hanks is
forced to care for his seriously ill father when he can as his parents
(Oscar winner Eva Marie Saint is his mother) go through a divorce after 35
There are some hilarious jabs at some of the immoral politics contained within the corporate world. Bess Armstrong, Sela Ward and Hector Elizondo are all excellent in supporting roles.
NOTHING IN COMMON (1986) ***1/2 Tom Hanks, Jackie Gleason, Hector Elizondo, Eva Marie Saint, Sela Ward, Bess Armstrong, Barry Corbin. Garry Marshall's winning serious comedy about ad exec Yuppie Hanks who faces the inevitable: caring for his at odds parents including separations, ageism and finally acceptance. Warm and slyly comic turn by Hanks with some great moments. Armstrong is adorable and Ward is sexy (just needed to state this for no other apparent reason). Best moment: Hanks telling off bullying client Corbin.
I happened to catch this movie while I was in college in 1991. At the time
though, I only saw the ending, but it really piqued my interest b/c the last
scene where Tom Hanks is pushing a wheel-chair-bound Jackie Gleason down a
hospital corridor through a windowed overpass was actually filmed where I
was born -- Northwestern Memorial Passavant Hospital in Chicago.
Years later, I was finally able to view "Nothing in Common" in its entirety on video, and while I liked some parts of it -- mostly b/c of its numerous Chicago location shots -- I thought the film's production value was a little bit low for a Hollywood film as it was produced and directed in such a way as to be reminiscent of network television soap operas and made-for-TV movies. The overlaid 80's soundtrack, for example, gave this movie a sappy feel and exuded tres gauche maudlin schamltziness, IMO.
Nevertheless, Tom Hanks was great, as usual, in his reprisal of the sympathetic 'everyman' role that has now become his trademark, and I believe that this was Jackie Gleason's last performance. Sela Ward, however, is the number one reason to see this film, as she is from beginning to end the unequivocal scene stealer.
Not only is Sela Ward hot hot hot, Ward brought a certain amount of authenticity in her portrayal of a big-city advertising executive circa 1980s. This is because long before Ward became a model and began her acting career, Ward, who majored in advertising at Ole' Miss, was a real-life advertising copywriter and exec on Madison Avenue in NYC in the late 70's and early 80's. Regardless, Ward's drop-dead gorgeousness did not detract from her believability as the cutthroat yuppie executive, Cheryl Ann Wayne, by one iota.
Great Chicago references though, e.g., Wrigley Field, location shoots in neighborhood pubs, downtown scenes, etc.
NOTHING IN COMMON was a smart and sentimental comedy drama that offered a pre-Oscar'ed Tom Hanks one of his best earlier roles. Hanks plays David Basner, an advertising executive whose lightning-quick advancement at his company becomes hampered when has to start taking care of his father (Jackie Gleason, in his final film role)who has become completely helpless after his wife (Eva Maria Saint) has left him. This comedy takes some pointed and effective jabs at the advertising industry and still manages to be a warm family story as well. Hanks beautifully walks a fine line between comedy and drama in one of his better and nearly forgotten performances. Gleason is abrasive as the dad, but Saint is lovely as the mom. Sela Ward, Bess Armstrong, and Barry Corbin are also effective in supporting roles and the ending has been known to produce a few tears. An intelligent and heartwarming look at the choices that we sometimes have to make regarding career and family.
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