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Every so often a film comes along that is misunderstood by critics and
ignored by the public, but is subsequently rediscovered and reappraised. I
sincerely hope that "For the Boys" will join those ranks. It is an
uncommonly sincere, insightful and touching film, and the only things to be
held against it amount to quibbles. True, the old age make up is dreadful,
and the last five minutes seriously weaken the impact of the film, but the
sum total is moving and perceptive.
Bette Midler, giving the performance of her career to date, was robbed of the Oscar in my opinion. It is a brave and sincere effort on her part, and such a pity that it was not met with greater recognition. James Caan plays the shallow, slightly dim Eddie Sparks almost too well. There are times when he truly frightened me. The performances on the whole are restrained; when the occasion for histrionics comes, both stars rise to it.
Thoroughly recommended. I sincerely hope this film finds its audience one day.
"For The Boys" is the story of two people - the irrepressible Dixie Leonard
(Bette Midler) and the instantly dislikable but ever popular Eddie Sparks
(James Caan). Set against the backdrop of wars in which the United States
has been involved, the film moves from station to station as the pair
entertain the boys while they bicker and fight amongst
The film starts with an aged Midler telling a studio assistant (Arye Gross) her tale, starting in the forties with World War II, moving through the was in Korea and climaxing in Vietnam. Along the way, she gets to sing a few classic tunes, including "Stuff Like That There" and "P.S. I Love You, as part of the stage act of comedian Eddie Sparks.
Bette Midler delivers a fine performance as the embittered Dixie Leonard who has seen it all in fifty odd years in the business. She layers her performance with emotion after emotion and has the gift of bringing out that quality in her fellow actors. The highlight of this film is her understated performance of "In My Life" at the small Vietnamese camp - truly a moment when the world stops turning and we are graced with a glimpse of heaven. James Caan, playing a quintessential son of a bitch, is less comfortable in his role but has some fine moments opposite his dynamic co-star.
The purpose of this film is not to document the wars which form such an integral backdrop to the plot. It succeeds primarily as a story of people - their suffering and their joy is real and it affects the audience in no uncertain terms. You will either love or hate this movie. Either way, take the time to decide - its worth the screening even if only for the divine Miss M.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I thought this movie was a 10+! The flashback format is interesting and
watching the characters' lives and attitudes progress through the
present-day Dixie's reminiscences. This is why it is puzzling to me
that another person's comment contained the following criticism in
regards to Bette's character Dixie: "She is perhaps nave and oblivious
to what war is about and maybe even thinks it's just one big party and
nobody really dies or suffers. By the end when she goes to Vietnam she
is a vulgar, disgusting, embittered slob who harbors some anger that
the GIs no longer swoon over her as they did a quarter of a century or
so earlier. The GI's are of a different generation and she can't relate
to them or why they have the attitude they do. She is perhaps also
angry with herself for not being able to be enthused about performing
for the fighting men of this war the way she was years ago. How does
she end up like this?"
Huh??? Dixie was an angry, embittered woman because Eddie Sparks sold out on her uncle! Her volatile reaction to his betrayal begins the systematic annihilation of her career. She didn't want to go on tour with him and only did so because he talked her into it, "For the Boys"!
If anything, it is Eddie Sparks who is oblivious to the changes of the times during the Vietnam war and is unable to make the leap from the USO tours of the previous wars to this strange and confusing part of our history and it is Dixie who takes control of the out-of-hand situation in her inimitable style by getting the rowdy soldiers back in line and then not only sings them the quintessential song of the era, but caps her low-key performance with the peace sign! My god, SHE was the one who was truly in tune with the confusion these soldiers were experiencing!
So, I have to ask...did we see the same movie?
A wonderful epic on war, modern American history, entertainment, and music. There is hardly a subject it doesn't touch on, from the 1950s Blacklist, to the antiwar movement in the 1960s, to the exploitation of talent, and to betrayal of friendship in politics and in marriage. All the performances are superb: Midler is extraordinary--her singing, acting, dancing and characterization are peerless; James Caan in one of the finest roles in his post-Godfather career, conveys the talented smarmy-but-sentimental Eddie Sparks; George Segal in a finely nuanced role as Caan's writer, and Arye Gross, who sets the entire backdrop for the story, all are excellent. On top of a plot-line that never sags, we are treated to a musical feast: Many old standards and obscure songs with orchestrations and vocal arrangements that are all first-rate, and the performances are flawless. The dramatization and attention to detail in the various historical periods is accurate and fascinating. Some may find the film too sentimental or simplistic: but it is a film, not an historical study, and sentimentality is different from sentiment. And finally, a movie that not only offers great music, great comedy, a story on an epic scale with characters that are realistic and has you crying in three or four magnificently poignant scenes is truly rare.
This is my second favorite Bette Midler movie, the first of course being Isn't She Great. I really like this movie. The plotline deals with two USO singers (Bette Midler, James Caan)who entertain the troops during WW2. They are so popular that years later they are called back to do a reunion, in which they are being honored, to perform for a new generation. This is not a film for the whole family. It's a war movie, but it's not all killing, it has very sensitive subject matters in it... such as the death of Dixie Leanord's (Bette Midler) husband and son. If you wanted to be entertained 2 hours and 20 minutes this is the film to see. This is on my top 10 favorite movies list, and if you see it, it might be on yours too. A well earned 10/10!
This is a very emotional movie with a great cast. I'm not a James Caan fan, but he was perfect for this. Slippery as an eel though the McCarthy era up until the end. In response to the comments by other reviewers regarding the politics including sexism I have to say that I found these things the best part of the movie even if they were not very deeply explored. False, facile patriotism exposed and 2 older people who actually learned something from their lives - that's pretty good. I am a big Bette Midler fan so that didn't hurt. She sang a lot of good songs. I especially loved, "For All We Know." I liked the contrasting points of view between a woman who lost her husband and son and the man who really really did not seem to have any principals. The Mc Carthy era was depicted as a "scoundrel time" to use Lillian Hellman's phrase. George Segals speech at the Christmas Party after he was fired could have been stronger, but it was good.
What a musical masterpiece that movie is. Just listen to the variety of songs and styles provided by Bette Midler and the rest of the cast. But the story has it's downside. Too many subjects, too many levels, and the make up department didn't do their best job when giving Midler and Caan the "age" look. It's too plastic. But Ms. Midler still is a great singer / actress under the bad make up, so I can still recomend this movie. Bring tissues!
For The Boys is a film that's about two performers and their almost 50
year association of one kind or another through some tumultuous times
in America. The filmed earned Bette Midler a nomination for Best
Actress in what might be her best screen role. At least it's the
favorite of mine.
Dixie Leonard where Midler gets to show all her talents is a young club singer who gets a break to accompany famous entertainer Eddie Sparks as played by James Caan on a USO tour in World War II. Midler's husband is an army photographer who's killed in action, but she still has his son who is played at various times in his life by Brandon Call and Christopher Rydell, director Mark Rydell's son. George Segal who is Caan's gag writer also is Midler's uncle and he acts as cupid in this show business marriage. All of Midler and Caan's lives are played out against the background of America in World War II, the Korean War, the McCarthy Era and Vietnam.
Caan's character of Eddie Sparks is said to be based on Bob Hope and God only knows what Hope must have thought of this film at the time it was out. By that point his stature as an American icon was secure. Hope was known to have liaisons with a few female performers, most discreetly however. The best known that kind of bubbled to the surface was with Marilyn Maxwell who Midler's character might have been based on. The character of Eddie Sparks however had three daughters and America's most well known father of girls was Eddie Cantor in most of this era. And Cantor's most well known extra-marital affair involved Joan Davis.
By the way actress Shannon Wilcox has a brief but really telling part as Caan's ice princess of a wife. Her few scenes tell you exactly why Caan's out roaming.
Caan got a lot of criticism for his part and I'm mystified as to why. Eddie Sparks is a complex part and Caan mastered all the subtleties even though he's not my idea of a song and dance man. He's the kind of man who will stop at nothing to climb the ladder of success, but he's also not a totally bad man. Knowing full well that George Segal's pungent political comments in front of gossip columnist Rosemary Murphy, another ice princess, will get him in trouble, he tries in one scene to tell him to just cool it. In that other classic, The Way We Were, Caan is adhering to Robert Redford's philosophy where in ten years time right wing producers will be hiring left wing writers and the blacklist will be forgotten, it's just something to be ridden out if one keeps a cool head. I don't think Caan was totally wrong there, he didn't want to lose his friend and a good writer.
What finally breaks Midler and Caan apart is the death of her son, like his father in combat in Vietnam. Caan and the boy bonded genuinely and the young man, probably more to honor his father chose a military career, graduating from the Citadel. Caan has a flip attitude towards education which is something the kid picks up on. But people who have a flip attitude towards education, albeit with a military bent, don't last at the Citadel.
Midler sees Caan as a warmonger who built his career on the publicity surrounding the entertainment of troops like Bob Hope. Caan argues quite rightly that he doesn't make policy, he doesn't send kids to war, he's a song and dance man.
A good mixture of songs from the various eras make up the score for For The Boys. One song, Bill-A-Dick by Hoagy Carmichael and Paul Francis Webster was an unpublished number at the time it was written and makes its debut here. It's sung by Midler along with Melissa Manchester and Pattie Darcy as an Andrews Sisters like trio. Remember Midler did revive the Andrews Sisters's Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
The film is an absolute gem, Midler is divine and don't listen to the criticisms that were given to James Caan.
Bette Midler proves that she can single-handedly make a film worth watching in FOR THE BOYS, an overlong but rewarding comedy-drama with music which chronicles the relationship between singer Dixie Leonard and comic Eddie Sparks (James Caan), a character clearly patterned after Bob Hope, which begins during a WWII USO tour and concludes in the present where the glamorously aging couple are being reunited for a television special. Bette received her second Best Actress Oscar nomination for her commanding performance here, She lights up the screen whether Dixie is upstaging Eddie in front of thousands of troops during WWII, cursing out sponsors during her and Eddie's television show, or tearing Eddie a new one when she thinks he is trying to steal her son away from her. As expected, she makes the most of her musical moments in the film with "Stuff Like that There" and "Come Rain or Come Shine" as standouts. Caan works hard in the role of Eddie Sparks, managing to make a pretty despicable character rather likable for the majority of the story. The only big mistake here was director Mark Rydell's casting of his real-life son, Christopher in the pivotal role of Dixie's adult son. Rydell's lifeless performance is a major detriment to an important part of the film, but for the most part, FOR THE BOYS is grand entertainment, thanks to the Divine Miss M.
In full brassy form, Bette Midler plays Dixie Leonard, who does USO
performances in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Throughout
pleasant times and hard times (and even through tragedies), she and
co-star Eddie Sparks (James Caan) always have to find a way to make
sure that the show goes on.
I don't know whether I would call this a masterpiece, but it's some good nostalgia. Midler shows off her talents the same as she did in "The Rose". And moreover, "For the Boys" also looks at the sorts of things going on during those wars, including Cold War-era red-baiting. Worth seeing.
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