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(1982)

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10/10
Adolescence Goes Out with a Bang!!!
dataconflossmoor19 August 2002
Seldom does a film capture fond memories with a lovable ADULT!! immaturity...You will never find a more sensational cast, Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Paul Reiser, Tim Daly, Daniel Stern, Ellen Barkin, and Micheal Tucker!!!....This film has an astute portrayal of meaningless conversation being the key focal point for everyone and everything...The platonic bond in this film leaves room for immeasurable tolerance particularly on account of dedicated human affection and evokes an epitome of the pleasant camaraderie pertinent to the 1950's.. Friends are not friends by just saying nice things to each other, rather because they have shared their adolescent lives with one another, and the realization of adulthood sparks an indispensable fondness all of the major characters in the film mutually share!! At a glance, someone may perceive this film to be a movie version of "Happy Days"...but the intense and poignant performances of all the characters in the film (particularly Steve Guttenberg's) makes anyone who sees this movie wonder if maybe it would have been nice to live in Baltimore in 1959!!!

Usually, there is a pejorative interpretation of the term "IMMATURE", but in this film, it establishes a social cohesiveness that reflects the enviable naivety of the times!!!...Everybody recognizes everyone else's preventable flaws...The proverbial friendship safety net which perennially prevails throughout this entire film, makes them feel very fortunate because they know that their lives are not perfect!!!..Their precociousness resonates itself to a bittersweet comedy, and is advocated as such, since comedy is limitless, because so too is human error...Evaluating the actors in the movie, it is simply incredible!! Steve Guttenberg is Police Academy King!! Tim Daley in the hit show "Wings" He seemed to understand that role perfectly!! Kevin Bacon, the eighties icon including "Footloose" Daniel Stern, the director and voice in "Wonder Years" Mickey Rourke "9 1/2 Weeks" Every male between the ages of 42 and 50 is insanely jealous!! Ellen Barkin "The Big Easy" and a host of others!! and of course, Paul Reiser "Mad About You"...Acting talent of this copious quantity exudes a plethora of non disputable top notch Hollywood entertainment!! All of the actors in this film established a compilation of feelings that were genuine, for better or for worse (pun intended!!).. Memories were safeguarded to make the recognizable distinction between friends and acquaintances!! Life was irksome at times, but they always sought respite!! The boys/men knew they could attain refuge and solace at the Diner!! Be it from eating French Fries with gravy, expounding about first experiences, bickering over nothing whatsoever, and most significantly, thoroughly and completely understanding each other!!! No matter what happens they will always have the Diner!!

How many films put a realistically humorous spin on adversity!! How many films provide a humanistic heartfelt laughter about everything!! More importantly!! What films make you realize truly that people make all the difference in your life!! Diner was indeed such a film!! All of the actors in this movie have had tremendous careers, and this movie is testimony as to why!! When evaluating your life, you realize how trite imperfections are the only valid means of appreciating your precarious endeavors, and your concise perception of what adolescence transitioning into adulthood truly signifies!! It is a wonderful experience when a film far exceeds your expectations and puts an acute awareness on what matters in your life!! With the Rolls Royce of directors/writers Barry Levinson, (Natural, Rain Man & Good Morning Vietnam, to name but a few!!) and an absolutely fabulous cast, (if a director ever wants a young cast with a cop esthetically emerging potential like this one ever again, he will have to get it from the guy with the red horns!!!) this film is one of the finest!!!! Top 20 in my book and top 30 for comedies according to the critics of AFI!!!!
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9/10
"There's not that much of a story, really. What do we do? We drive around..." Kevin Bacon
G_a_l_i_n_a17 September 2008
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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8/10
Coming of Age in Fifties Baltimore
JamesHitchcock7 December 2004
Recent films set in the 1950s, such as 'Pleasantville', 'Far from Heaven' and 'Mona Lisa Smile' have tended to portray the decade as being a repressed, overly conservative period. A generation ago, however, the tendency was to take a more sympathetic, nostalgic look at the fifties in films such as 'Grease' or television programmes such as 'Happy Days'. The post-Vietnam generation seemed to look back at the period immediately before that war as a lost age of innocence.

'Diner' follows a group of young men from Baltimore, former school friends now in their early twenties, over a week of their lives, that between Christmas Eve and New Year, 1959. Some of them are still living and working in the town, others are now at college, but are using the Christmas vacation as a chance to get back together with old friends. The title is taken from the diner that is their favourite meeting-place. There is no real coherent plot; the film is very episodic in structure and concentrates on character rather than on action.

As is perhaps inevitable with young men of this age, many of their preoccupations are with girls and relationships. One of them, Shrevie, is married, but seems to be discontented with married life. Another, Eddie, is engaged. A third, Billy, discovers during the course of the film that he has got his girlfriend pregnant, but when he offers to do the decent thing by her, he is disconcerted to realize that she would much rather he did the indecent one. A fourth, Boogie, seems to lead a carefree life, flitting from one romance to another. The characters are not, however, preoccupied with love and sex to the exclusion of all else. We also learn about their other private obsessions with such matters as music, sport and the cinema. Shrevie quarrels with his wife because she does not share his passion for popular music and fails to understand his complex system for cataloguing his extensive record collection. (I wonder if this scene was the origin of a similarly obsessive character in 'High Fidelity'). Eddie's passion for sport is even more all-consuming than Shrevie's for music; he subjects his fiancée Elyse to a football quiz and threatens to break off the engagement if she cannot score a sufficiently high score. A minor character knows off by heart the entire dialogue from the film 'Sweet Smell of Success'.

Many of the young actors who starred in the film have gone on to become famous names in the movie world. From my point of view the best was probably Kevin Bacon as Timothy, the rebel without a cause who has dropped out of his wealthy family and lives an aimless life. (The first time we see him he is smashing windows just for the hell of it). I was, however, also impressed by Daniel Stern as Shrevie and Mickey Rourke as Boogie.

I have never been to Baltimore, but it was clear from watching the film that the director was trying to capture the spirit of a particular place and time. It therefore came as no surprise to discover that Barry Levinson, who both wrote and directed the film, is himself a Baltimore native, although slightly younger than the characters depicted in the film. (He would have been seventeen in 1959). Despite this concentration on the particular, however, 'Diner' has a universal appeal. The film with which it has most in common is 'American Graffiti'. Although that film was actually set in the early sixties rather than the fifties, it nevertheless deals quite openly with the idea of the pre-Vietnam era as a golden age. 'Diner' does not deal with this theme so overtly, but there is still nevertheless a distinct sense of an era coming to an end. It is significantly set in the final week of a decade, and in the wedding scene we see a large banner saying 'Eddie and Elyse- in the sixties and forever', a reminder that change is on the way, both for these young men and for America as a whole.

The most important change that the characters in 'Diner' have to come to terms with is neither social nor political, but rather the challenge of growing up. The traditional 'Coming of Age' film has tended to concentrate on adolescence and the teenage years. For many young men, however, their early twenties, when they are completing or have already completed their education, are setting out on their careers and are starting to think about more serious relationships with women, can be a time of even greater changes than their days in secondary school. All the major characters- except perhaps the serious-minded Billy who is keen to accept new responsibilities- want to hang on to elements of their boyhood even while moving into adulthood.

For Boogie, and, to an even greater degree, Timothy, this means keeping the freedom to be irresponsible. For Shrevie and Eddie, this means trying to keep hold of their youthful passions even after marriage. The discord between Shrevie and his wife (slightly older than him and considerably more mature in outlook) is caused as much by his fear that marriage will mean having to give up his association with his old friends as by her inability to differentiate between jazz and rock-and-roll. Barry Levinson's claim that Elyse's football test was based on a true incident may seem improbable, but there is some psychological truth in this part of the film. It has, after all, been said that every man's ideal woman is himself incarnated in the body of a beautiful girl, and Elyse's willingness to take this test shows that she is prepared to make sacrifices and enter into Eddie's male-oriented world.

'Diner' is a film worth seeing more than once. On my first viewing I found it dull, an inferior copy of 'American Graffiti'. The second time round, I started to appreciate it as a fine film in its own right. Barry Levinson has gone on to make a number of other good films ('The Natural', 'Good Morning Vietnam', 'Rain Man' and 'Sleepers'), but 'Diner', his first film, is perhaps his most personal and heartfelt. 8/10
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10/10
Strong dialogue and believable characters taking precedence over stupid action and obnoxious caricatures.
MovieAddict201625 April 2004
Note: This review has been severely chopped to comply with IMDb's word limit. Full review can be found at wiredonmovies.com

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"There's not that much of a story, really. What do we do? We drive around. Maybe he's going to get married, maybe not. It's really more about the fact that it's a very honest portrayal of a group...of guys that people relate to on a very personal level."

  • Kevin Bacon on the "Diner" DVD interview reel


In the opening scene of Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," a handful of characters debate the true meaning of Madonna's hit song "Like a Virgin." Long before "Reservoir Dogs" (a decade, to be exact), there was Barry Levinson's directorial debut, "Diner," a coming-of-age tale concerning five Baltimore residents in their 20s who try to get past crucial points in their lives. In a similar scene to that in Tarantino's masterpiece, four friends -- played by Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, and Paul Reiser -- argue over which singer produces better make-out music: Mathis or Sinatra? "Presley," says Rourke's character, ending the conversation with blunt confidence. And that's that.

The movie has plentiful rich dialogue, some of it seemingly pointless, most of it subtly touching and meaningful. The film has a lot to say about the difference between friendship and true love. "I love you," one of the characters tells the woman he wants to marry. Fixated on an object behind him, her eyes cold and a grim reflection of deep contemplation, she replies, "You're confusing a friendship with a woman, and love. It's not the same." In a very different sort of way, it tackles the same material as "When Harry Met Sally," but it doesn't stop there.

The film is masterful in its ability to present us with a group of people we sincerely care for, and who all seem very real -- more so than the characters you'll find in most movies. The dialogue was primarily improvised, especially by Paul Reiser, whose debates with fellow pals are the highlights of the film. Even after the truly poignant ending there is a discussion about evolution that plays over the credits. "Did you hear about this evolution stuff?" Reiser asks. He starts to mock the theories which would later become widely considered as truth by scientists, despite lack of actual evidence supporting the theory. Amusing, how the movie has so much to say about so many different things.

"Diner" is a film that connects with us because we can all sympathize with its characters and their inner motivations. Eddie (Guttenberg) is afraid of getting married; Schrezie (Stern) is married and wishes he wasn't; Boogie (Rourke) would like to finally find a girl he could respect; Bill (Timothy Daly) wants to get married to the girl he loves but she doesn't want to. The whole movie appears to be focused on girls, and indeed most of it is, yet there's a lot of other stuff that's even deeper. Fenwick (Bacon) is what Bacon himself described as a "permanently drunk," sick kid who doesn't know what he wants out of life, thrown out of his family and wandering the streets looking for a meaning to his life. He's the character who is so lost he doesn't even seem to care very much about girls.

Prior to "Diner," Levinson was a nobody -- and perhaps that is why his first project is that most in tune with its characters and their natures. The movie was very risky when the studio released it in 1982 -- there was talk of shelving the finished product for fear of losing money. Reluctant, MGM finally released the movie into theaters, but with poor advertising -- it tanked. Yet it received some of the greatest reviews of the year. In an effort to convince MGM, Levinson showed a screening of the movie to critic Pauline Kael, who gave it an exceptional review, as did the majority of critics at that time. On the surface, "Diner" seems rather boring -- it's just a movie about nothing, really, except growing up. Yet it captured the hearts of many, becoming a cult sleeper that still entices new fans to this very day.

It's a film of many integrating mixed genres, each one carefully balanced and perfectly maintained throughout. "Diner" has some of the best dialogue of all time, not to mention a handful of Oscar-worthy performances. This is not Levinson's best but it's one of his most deeply touching projects. It has a lot to say about many things and it actually gets around to addressing them -- which is rare to find in any movie. This is a true gem.
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8/10
"Just say it! 'I want the roast beef sandwich!'"
mattymatt4ever3 April 2003
"Diner" is a fun-filled, perfectly inspired comedy/drama, which is talented director Barry Levinson's first effort. Needless to say, there's no strong plot structure, but when you have solid, memorable characters like these, that's not necessary. Almost every one of these characters are memorable in their own ways. Nobody "steals the show."

The cast is highly spirited, as I sensed great joy in their performances. The chemistry between the characters is very genuine, and not surprisingly Barry Levinson made sure the actors got well-acquainted with each other before shooting.

I can tell Levinson based many of these scenarios on real-life situations. Scenes like these cannot be developed in the mind of some phony Hollywood hack screenwriter. The nostalgia practically bleeds out the screen, in his solid attention to detail. And that's one of the reasons why this film works. I can actually imagine Levinson sitting back and watching the film with a big smile, chuckling intermittently as he reminisces back to moments from his adolescence. When a director is joyful about his work, that joy transfers to his audience. One of the scenes in which that joy is most evident is when Daniel Stern's character throws a fit about his girlfriend, Ellen Barkin, wrongly categorizing his records and never asking him "what's on the flip side?" Levinson obviously has a passion for the music of his time, and rightfully so, because a lot of great music comes from the 50's. And lucky for me, the film's soundtrack is filled with many of those great tunes.

There are many memorable moments and lines of dialogue. The football quiz is definitely something to be remembered. But my favorite is the famous "roast beef sandwich" argument. Paul Reiser asks Steve Guttenberg if that's a roast beef sandwich he's eating, and Guttenberg can sense he wants a bite from the sandwich, so he yells out, "Just say it! 'I want the roast beef sandwich!'" It's a brilliant, "Seinfeld"-type scene which revolves around a banal subject, but you can't help but be delightfully amused, because let's fact it--the things we relate most to are the simple things in life. Movies about politics can be interesting, but what if you're not a politician or someone who doesn't give a damn about politics? Eating is someone everyone can relate to. Friendship is something everything can relate to. And male bonding is something all men can relate to.

If "Waiting to Exhale" best demonstrates the strength of female bonding, I feel this film best demonstrates the strength of male bonding. I used to feel that women had a stronger bond, since they're more affectionate and in touch with their feelings. But when jealousy enters the equation, even the most long-term friendship between two women can be butchered. I've actually talked to several women who feel more comfortable with male friends, and don't very much trust other women. However, guys stick together. We may badmouth each other left and right and bust each other's chops, but the bond remains the same. Some females may interpret this is as a misogynistic film, because other than Ellen Barkin's character, there are no major or supporting female characters. And Steve Guttenberg's would-be wife is never revealed--at least her face is never shown. But this is simply to stress the theme of male bonding; not to show that women aren't important.

"Diner" is a film for those who enjoy funny, moving, character-driven nostalgia films with fine actors. Hell, even Mickey Rourke, who I'm not a big fan of, gives a fine three-dimensional performance. But everyone in the cast is worth praising in equal doses: Daniel Stern, Paul Reiser (despite his brief screen time), Kevin Bacon, Steve Guttenberg, Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin.

My score: 8 (out of 10)
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10/10
An Oscar!! What's That?
dataconflossmoor-14 February 2010
Who realized that back in 1982, a film like "Diner" would possess such an extraordinary wealth of talent, both on and off the screen. What was emphasized by this film's director, (Barry Levenson) was the impetuousness with which this movie's actors and actresses had to orchestrate. So often, during the film's production, Barry did not even say "ACTION" to commence a scene. So many times, would Levenson omit the word "CUT" for a scene to conclude. All of these non conventional actions by director, Barry Levenson,were for purposes of manufacturing a tertiary spontaneity from the actors in the movie. Such an auspicious lack of inhibition sparked a natural emotional realism that made the film "Diner" truly unique! Many scenes brought on a free spirited innocence that prevailed back in Baltimore in 1959 (The city and the year that this film was suppose to take place). "The Popcorn Scene" with Mickey Rourke was hysterically funny, as it is indicative of the sordid wiles men will engage in to get the attention of a beautiful woman, especially if it for purposes of impressing his close knit buddies!! "The Piano Scene" was one of the best scenes in any movie I have seen whatsoever!! Tim Daly's piano playing was a mandatory form of entertainment to break up the sedentary monotony of an ossified nightclub! The type of character Steve Guttenberg played was one which was very identifiable to me. I saw myself in Steve Guttenburg's character so many times in the movie, but, particularly in the "Piano Scene". I could envision myself dancing recklessly in dare devil fashion while wearing Shetland wool! This was so Steve Guttenberg's character, and, it was so much like something I might do as well!! This film focused on the bittersweet scenario, pertaining to the peculiar viewpoint by some barely adult men, who had a penchant for believing that an individual's sense of humor should be his single most coveted attribute in the world. Such a mindset purveys the ground-rules of survival being a case of how a human being's sense of humor should be endless, because his egregious flaws as an individual are endless as well!! "Diner" accentuated the necessary dichotomy between social cohesiveness and individuality! Ultimately, the film would bridge the gap with precocious candor. This itemization of quirky concepts accomplished a successfully ambiguous cultural dissemination of adolescent ideas with all the main characters of this movie. The incongruity contained in the conversations with everybody became a capriciously acute element to this film which successfully evoked a superbly unprecedented directorial finesse!! "Diner" did not win the academy award for best movie in 1982. When a movie wins an Oscar for best picture during any given year, it is usually a very good film. When a film manifests a fondness for individual expression by establishing a reality on how people truly are by what they find amusing, with that, emanates the real definition of a comedy. If a movie can accomplish such a feat, then this is an undeniably great film. Without question, the film "Diner' is a movie that may be put into this category!! A bevy of talented people partook in this movie. This box office bonanza of stars comprises of; Mickey Rourke, Steve Guttenberg, Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin, Daniel Stern, Kevin Bacon, and Paul Reiser. (Reiser's curiosity with the term, nuance, in this movie, later surfaced itself to reality by way of a production company which was entitled "Nuance Productions" that Paul Reiser was part owner of). Given the fact that so many actors, actresses, directors and producers have 30,000 square foot domiciles in Beverly Hills and on Park Avenue, it becomes rather obvious that money is not always a top priority with them. Ultimately, they realize that the purpose for making a movie is to raise the bar on entertainment standards. This encapsulation concerning man's sanguine flippancy about perpetual failure, which this film, "Diner" illustrated, was totally astounding! More specifically put, an integral facet of movie entertainment is predicated on accurately pinpointing what human nature is truly like. Often times, I have thought that if you only want to see two movies in your entire life, those two films should be "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Diner". Both movies capture a grass roots recognition of what people's attitudes and instinctive reactions really are. I would give the nod to "Diner" over "Glengarry Glen Ross" because "Diner" illustrates a realism which is portrayed with a far more positive disposition! Such a reality gives "Diner" an enthusiastic identifiability. Attaining a stranglehold on the positive elements of human intuition in a movie like "Diner" is a goal that is so crucial to a film! So much so, that if a director does this, but, he does not win an Oscar for his film, his response should be "SO WHAT!!" The movie "Diner" is a one of a kind gem! "Diner" has achieved the ultimate accolade of being a movie which ignites a humanistic gratification to a near perfect state! This film has artistically conquered an elementary objective for making a movie! Such an accomplishment is what film making is all about, to which, I have only one thing to say, "An Oscar!! What's that?"
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10/10
A sparkling moment!
dowlic7 October 2006
Levinson's, and IMO, many of the actors' best work. Polished dialog that never gets old with repeated viewing. The characters in this film remain permanently blazed in my memory, and the lines are worthy of memorization, as one of the minor characters in the film spouts lines from "Sweet Smell of Success." Brilliant cast at their peak. No matter what each of these actors did later, they, and I, will always have Diner.

The music, cars, clothes of the 50s never seemed more poignantly bittersweet and dreamlike to me, although I did not live through that period. Everyone should see this film. An all time classic, in my book.

All this and zero degrees of Kevin Bacon to boot!
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8/10
Incredibly delightful, and Funny
Lozbee200017 October 2002
This movie has entered my top 20 list since I seen it for the first time at the start of this month. The only thing I hated about this movie was that the channel I was watching it on had taken out the swear words so I didn't quite get all those jokes.

Apart from that I loved this movie it mostly has males in it but that didn't matter, you could just feel the friendship between these 5 guys. This film was also very funny whether it was the popcorn scene,the football quiz,the jail scene or Methan quoting his favourite film, it's all there.

Out of the five main guys in the film two of them really showed their talent; and they were Mickey Rourke and Daniel Stern. After seeing this film I decided to give it an 8 out of 10 because I think it deserves that rating.

Whoever said that this is a guy flick is terribly mistaken because I am a 15 year old girl and I really enjoyed it.
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7/10
A nice visit with recognizable characters.
SmileysWorld20 January 2014
I wasn't really wowed by this film.It doesn't really have a captivating story,great scenery or great special effects (the latter is never really necessary anyway).What you have is a group of guys,each of them representing someone most of us know or have heard of.We are introduced to them,and over the course of the film,we get to know them,and by film's end,we had an overall pleasant time.The film has a place on the AFI's 100 Years,100 Laughs list,which brought me to watch it.I don't question it's placement there because we all have different senses of humor,but I can't say that it really generated a lot of laughs for me personally.Overall,it was enjoyable enough and I may visit it again one day.
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9/10
Sex, Sports, Eating, Drinking and Life
ProfessorFate16 February 2010
Not much happens in the course of director Barry Levinson's film "Diner". A bunch of college-aged guys in late 1950's Baltimore gather over the Christmas holidays and eat french fries with gravy at their favorite local diner and talk about "stuff" . . . oh yeah, they also confront the painful necessity of making the transition from carefree adolescence to the responsibilities of adulthood.

The reason for the gathering: Eddie (Steve Guttenberg) is getting married. TV salesman Shrevie (Daniel Stern) is already married and prefers to cling to his single friends lifestyle instead of trying to understand his wife, Beth (Ellen Barkin). Fenwick (Kevin Bacon) is the smart and cynical black sheep son of a rich family, who seems to have a drinking problem. Boogie (Mickey Rourke) is a hairstylist/law student and a smooth-talking ladies man, but his mounting gambling debts are getting him into trouble. Billy (Timothy Daley) has escaped to college and gotten involved in a messy romance with a longtime platonic girlfriend. Then there's Modell (Paul Reiser), the soft-spoken philosopher/comedian of the group, who ponders the meaning of the word "nuance" and, in the film's funniest scene, torments Eddie over a roast beef sandwich. Eddie himself is a lazy, immature-yet-amiable lout who is making his bride-to-be pass a football quiz before tying the knot. The interaction between these friends sets in motion a story that is as deep as the meaning of life, and as shallow as the question of who's the better singer - Sinatra or Mathis? "Diner" is simply one of the best movies ever made about male-bonding. Working from a highly autobiographical script, director Barry Levinson has created a masterful comedy and an insightful character study. What he does so well is capture the way guys act when women aren't around - they smoke and drink and stay up all night and laugh and talk about cars and music and sports, and of course they rack their brains trying to figure out the opposite sex. Any woman wanting to understand the male psyche would do well to study this film.

More importantly he also perfectly captures the feeling of inevitable change hanging over these characters. There's this wistful desire to hang on to past relationships, to revel in familiar people and places before moving forward, before dealing with the anxiety of the approaching unknown. It's this quality that makes "Diner" such a special film. It can be enjoyed on a surface level for it's humor and nostalgia, or you can dig deeper and appreciate the profound observations it makes on the human condition. Either way it is an amazing film.
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8/10
The Thinking Man's American Graffiti
krorie29 April 2006
Basically the interaction of five guys and one girl during the Christmas season of 1959-1960 in Balitimore, Maryland, "Diner" is somewhat autobiographical of director/writer Barry Levinson, identified as the character Billy (Tim Daly) in the film. Be sure and listen to the dialog spoken over the ending credits. It cleverly encapsulates the entire film. The movie is noteworthy for making stars of six new faces to the cinema public, Steven Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Timothy Daly, and Ellen Barkin. Had it been created before "American Graffiti," it would have been the definitive coming of age flick. Coming nine years later, it pales in the shadow of that seminal work. Still, "Diner" is a worthwhile piece of cinema and is much more cerebral than "American Graffiti."

There are a few time-line problems. I too was finishing high school and preparing for college during the same time interval. Only I was located in rural America and the protagonists of "Diner" lived in an urban setting. Radio was AM and dominated by the "top forty" play list. Seldom were older rock 'n' roll songs played. Naturally there were no oldies stations yet. Teens basked in the audio heaven of the popular tunes of the day. The "Diner" soundtrack appropriately contains such hits of 1959-60 as "Beyond the Sea," "Theme From a Summer Place," and "Goodbye Baby," but also contains songs that were rarely if ever played on AM radio or on diner juke boxes in 1959-60, such as "It's All In The Game," "Don't Be Cruel," and "Fascination." This all makes for one of the best 50's soundtracks ever, but distracts from the credibility of the film setting.

Teens of the period throughout American had a favorite gathering place or rendezvous. For me it was a local diner called "The Hickory House." Sitting in cars, drinking, and shooting the BS was as popular as actually going inside the diner, though that took place too. "Diner" accurately portrays this aspect of teenage gregariousness. The courting rituals and dating challenges are also true to life for the period. A mediocre film, "A Summer Place" was extremely popular with teens of the period, in particular girls, since it was basically a chick flick. By using it as a backdrop to the story, Levinson enhances the scene with the popcorn box and makes it much more meaningful, especially to those who have watched "A Summer Place." Another aspect of reality used by Levinson in a telling way is the concept of male, female relationships at the time. For example, when Timothy Fenwick (Bacon) starts using vulgar language during the car wreck tomfoolery, the other guys point to Beth (Barkin) and indicate by gesture that there is a lady present. Today, female teens readily use vulgar talk as often as males. Changing times.

"Diner" is one of the best of the teen angst films shot during the 70's and 80's and not to be missed. If the viewer lived through the time passage in the movie, it is all that more enjoyable to see.
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I can't believe how many posters missed the point of the film.
random_ax19 May 2003
I can't believe how many posters missed the point of the film.

The basic premise of the film is how men don't understand women and are even afraid of them.

Guys DO talk about women like meat when they are with other men. Did you expect them to gush about a female's personality to his fellows in the late '50s???????

See how guys even refer to Carol Heathrow as "death". Women are not to be understood and to be feared.

And the reason we never see Eddie's bride....think about it,,,if you SAW her, you'd make a judgement about that actress. "Wow, how could a guy pass her up just because she doesn't know more about football?" That's the reason we never see her. We must only know that Eddie loves her but is scared to marry her for various reasons. The moment we saw her face, there would be too many value judgements about whether Eddie is nuts to make her take the test. For thodse who complained about her face not being shown, ask yourself if it would have tainted your opinion of Eddie's requirement for marriage.

Sure, the movie doesn't SEEM like it has a plot. But it's just a slice of life in 1959, the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve....and we share that week.
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2/10
Sour-Sounding Soap For Arrogant Adolescents
ccthemovieman-13 January 2007
If you like modern-day soap operas, you should like this critics' favorite. It's simply an ensemble of 20-ish young people who hang out at the diner and give us - or so the critics think - witty and profound statements. To me, most of them just sounded obnoxious, profane (blasphemous (especially in Steve Guttenberg's character) and unappealing. It didn't do much for me: kind of like another "Big Chill" but with a different cast.

That was the only interesting aspect for me, seeing a young Kevin Bacon, Daniel Stern, Ellen Barkin, among others. I saw this on tape in the '90s instead of when it came out in the early '80s.

This is probably too talky for many people today, and they aren't missing much. It's overrated.
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10/10
Will there be fries with that?
michaelRokeefe29 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Produced, written and directed by Barry Levinson. DINER has been one of my favorite movies from the first time I watched it. This comedic drama takes a look at a group of Baltimore guys in 1959. They spend most of their time at a local greasy-spoon diner discussing their collective fears of growing up. Inspite of one being married, the group seems ambition-less with little respect for women. It seems their goals are 'copping a feel' and 'getting laid'.

These somewhat shallow characters are played by a host of future accomplished stars. Mickey Rourke plays a hairdresser by day and a law student by night. He is driven by sex and his gambling habit. Kevin Bacon's character is estranged from his wealthy family and has a warped, if not sick, sense of humor. Steve Guttenberg is approaching marriage, only if his fiancée can pass a quiz of football trivia. Daniel Stern is cast as the married friend, who is having troubles with his wife(Ellen Barkin). Paul Reiser is the complainer of the group. Tim Daly plays a grad student with his own problematic love life. I really enjoyed the interaction of these young men, as they whittle away their time holding court in their favorite diner. Bumbling, arrogant, stupid and obnoxious actions of this circle of friends is played quite believably.

The atmosphere is sustained by a wonderful soundtrack of the times featuring the likes of: Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dion & The Belmonts, Howling Wolf, Bobby Darin and of course, Elvis.

Also in the cast: Kathryn Dowling, Colette Blonigan, John Aquino and Michael Tucker. The angst of coming of age usually proves entertaining. DINER picks up the tab and leaves a modest tip.
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5/10
OK-ish End of adolescence tale
KingofCarrotFlowers22 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't see this one as complete waste of time and some of it was OK, but also lots of it got on my nerves.

First for the good in it: Mickey Rourke gets his career highlight in here, he's also the only character that's developed to some point but that besides the issue. Rourke is the Casanova of the gang but he's also immersed in fear of not seeing the next day, with the impending pressure of having to pay off some gambling debts to a local mob. Still he might be physically near to crying but he tries his utmost not to let down his cocky façade in front of his friends. Really, I can perfectly see why people would see him as a promising actor at his point in time. The soundtrack is OK and some of the banter inside the title's diner does show some chemistry.

And now the bad: I know this is from 82 and meant to mirror the 50's but boy is this film misogynistic. Their objectifying chats are one thing but that football test in order to get married just seems to come out of the stone age, when that girl's mom calls on the phone to check out how her daughter's doing on the test as if it's perfectly normal I kinda zoned out from it. Kevin Bacon's character is supposed to be somewhat crazy but we have no idea why. Is he schizophrenic? Is he depressed and trying to get some attention? We have no idea and his craziness seems to be there only for the sake of some "wacky" moments. Daniel Stern plays a music geek, high on trivia and low on communicating with his wife. As a music brainiac myself I felt disgusted by the way he carries himself and by the whiny, childish tantrum he gets when a record is not in place, literally driving his wife t tears. Geez, I know it's supposed to vent his frustration about not having anything to talk about with his spouse but no one would be that insensitive (telling her not to order the records herself-maybe, making her cry-don't think so). It's the most denigrating music fan image I've ever seen on film.

In the end we're left with a handful of amusing moments marred by lack of character development (which is odd considering this is exactly the right kind of movie for that)and a dated feel to it all in more ways than one.
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8/10
An intriguing look into a stage in men.
Rockwell_Cronenberg2 April 2012
Barry Levinson's directorial debut, working from his own original script, is one of those movies that examines a group of friends at a significant moment in their life. Diner focuses itself on several college-aged boys in 1959 Baltimore, caught in that awkward stage right on the cusp of manhood. Each prominent member of the group is stuck at a crossroads between life as a carefree teenager and having to move into the adult world; Eddie Simmons (Steve Guttenberg) is days away from his wedding, Shrevie Schreiber (Daniel Stern) is in a young marriage to Beth (Ellen Barkin), Boogie Sheftell (Mickey Rourke) is a playboy working at a beauty shop, Timothy Fenwick (Kevin Bacon) is a developing alcoholic living off his trust fund, and Billy Howard (Tim Daly) has just come home for Eddie's wedding.

Levinson takes on a slightly non-traditional structure here, as the film occurs almost in a series of vignettes as opposed to a typical narrative. He made the wise move to get the actors acquainted with one another before shooting began, so when it came time to start rolling on the film he was able to build conversations through improvisation and the actors own relationships, as opposed to forcing them to read strict lines off the page. It has a free flow to it all, wisely directed by Levinson and marvelously acted by the young cast of fresh actors. You can feel that camaraderie in their chemistry together, you can really feel all of those years of building relationships between them.

Some of the actors do shine individually; Rourke in particular steals the show, coming onto the screen as if he were a born star. He has the kind of natural charisma and compelling presence that the young Paul Newman and James Dean had, drawing your eyes towards him instantly whenever he comes on screen. There's a soft, sincere man inside that casually flamboyant shell, the kind of guy who wants you to think he's something that he really isn't, and Rourke plays it with such wonderful nuance. It's an impressive performance on it's own, but the real treat of the film is seeing the whole ensemble of young stars working together.

Diner is a story of boys who have to finally make the decision to become men and I think this is an interesting part on the development of men. Over the years there have been hundreds and hundreds of films about adolescence, about boys half the age of the ones seen here, but not enough about this stage in life, one that I find infinitely more interesting. I think any man who is in this stage of their life, or has already passed it, can find a lot to relate to in these characters and the fact that I'm currently in a similar stage surely helped me admire the film even more. It takes place in 1959 but the themes of maturity and morality speak to any generation. They're all caught right in this area between boy and man and it makes for several interesting contradictions within the characters.

Bacon's Fenwick is developing a severe alcohol problem and spends most of his time clowning around and pissing away his life, but we can see that he is an extremely intelligent guy who is wasting his potential. Rourke's Boogie is two thousand dollars in debt from gambling, but he still finds time to get a girl to touch his erection through a popcorn box. Guttenberg's Eddie is getting married in a week but instead of finding the courage to be a responsible man he puts all of his insecurities about taking the plunge into whether or not his fiancée can pass a silly test about football. These guys are all right on that edge and the film centers around them having to own up to where they are in their life and realize that it's time to stop being boys goofing around at the local diner and move onto becoming men.

A lot of films that work with this kind of theme tend to force too much development into such a short time period, to the point where it becomes clear fiction. Levinson wisely avoids this, developing ideas that we don't see the full result of. The alcoholism of Bacon's character is an issue that comes into play for certain, but as the film closes it's still one that exists. It's still one that will impact him for years to come and we don't see the final completion of it. There's a scene early on where Shrevie and Beth go to get in their car and she stands there, waiting for him to open the door, but he doesn't do it. It's a small moment that keys into the discourse of their marriage, a discourse that is developed within the context of the film, but you know when it's over that they still have a long way to go.

Levinson doesn't concern himself with trying to work these characters through their entire life in a two hour period. Instead, he foreshadows events that will come to pass later in life, realizing that this is just a small moment in the grand scheme of it all. It's a shockingly realistic and non-exaggerated approach that I found very impressively done on his part. The film opens up on Christmas of '59 and closes on New Year's Eve the same year, an appropriate time for where these men are in their life. As one decade ends, another begins and they have to evolve themselves just as the year is evolving into a new decade. It's another relatively subtle touch on Levinson's part, but it adds another nice metaphor to where these guys are at and where they are headed to.
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10/10
An example of pure adult entertainment masterpiece
Sometimes adult films can be very entertaining with stronger premises, neat acting, and laugh-out-loud comedy which is why we get Barry Levinson's Diner.

It revolves around Christmas time in 1959 where 5 boys spend their time at the diner. When the gang realizes that they have to spend a few days without the comfort of their favorite restaurant, they try to settle their lives by showing their responsibilities while sharing their details.

Thinking about this movie makes me want to watch it again to keep on making me laugh my butt off. I mean, it is that good there's absolutely nothing negative to say about it.

The premise about spending their lives explaining their details without the diner was very interesting. The acting was pure masterpiece. Every actor you see, Steve Guttenberg from the Police Academy series, Daniel Stern from Home Alones 1 and 2, Mickey Rourke from Iron Man 2, Kevin Bacon from Apollo 13, Balto, Mystic River, you name it.

The comedy was pure genius. The jokes that I like the best were Fenwick pretending to be dead from his car accident and the part where Fenwick gets drunk while goofing off near a church.

The soundtrack was great and the 1959 period setting was very creative.

Diner is one of the greatest films ever made from the early 80s that defines the 50s and it is in my list.

5 out of 5
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9/10
A Wistful, Catchy, Charismatic Sleeper
jzappa6 January 2011
Unsullied, well-acted and lively American movies by new directors with the audacity of their assurance are in danger of becoming extinct because they're either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters. They ought to be defended and preserved, not to mention valued and treasured. This naturalistically acted movie isn't extravagant or lengthy, but it's the kind of minor, truthful, enjoyable movie that should never go out of fashion, even now that the tradition of sequels and blockbusters has been thoroughly established. It's not quite seamless, yet its intermittent patchiness is part of its allure. There's an exhilaration in watching a gifted hatchling filmmaker skate on thin ice.

This wistful, charismatic sleeper sounds initially like a genre movie in the always trendy Stand by Me While I Look Dazed and Confused at American Pie and/or Graffiti at Ridgemont High pattern. Like American Graffiti, or like Porky's, etc., it's set in a youth-driven bygone era marked by perpetual nostalgia, routinely revisits some favorite place and highlights young men moving toward maturity while talking relentlessly about sex, to the jingle of a ceaseless line of hit records.

Yet the similitude stops there. One of the most sensitive youth accounts about the vacuum between genders, it's a lot less blithe than any of its foils. The ambiance is reverberated by the set design, which is actually rather gritty and dingy. In just one crucial scene do two characters find themselves beyond Baltimore's worn boundaries, and amidst a vast, sunlit countryside in a well-heeled hamlet. Riding horseback past them is an advantaged, beautiful girl. "You ever get the feeling that there's something going on that we don't know about?" one character asks the other, and then they zip right back to the movie's dim daily backdrop.

Barry Levinson, the film's writer and director, almost treads more Mean Streets-style water with such strokes, and those are actually the few scenes that seem to slightly miscarry, forthright as they are. But Levinson's sentiment for and interest in his young-at-heart characters are distinctive. And his immoderation, like theirs, is effortlessly absolved.

His tribute to the fine art of screen writing is about a cluster of high-school buddies who, in 1959, are a year or two graduated, and now starting to belatedly come into their own. Shrevie has already tumbled into an early marriage with a woman with whom, he entrusts to a chum, he cannot have a meaningful exchange. Sex is no longer a god to him, but he's already melancholy for the time when it was. His wife Beth, rendered very movingly in only a few scenes in Ellen Barkin's first big-screen role, knows him so little that she cannot even fathom something as essential and imperative as how he keeps his records categorized. At the end of a lingering marital clash in which he has berated Beth about the LPs, Shrevie, intending to express his recollection for details, roars at Beth that Ain't That a Shame was playing when he first met her in 1955.

Another of the boys, Eddie, is about to wed a girl whom we incessantly hear about though never see. Eddie's such a Baltimore Colts devotee that he's asserting that their colors be the theme for the wedding. He's such an anxious bridegroom that he's requiring Elyse score higher than 65 on a sports quiz of Eddie's own design. If Elyse fails, he declares, wedding's off. He's for real. What'll he do when she scores 63? The other leads are self-indulgent, ill-mannered trust-fund rebel Fenwick, who, in one remarkable private scene shows an uncannily encyclopedic intellect; persuasive charmer Boogie, who gambles on everything, counting his sex life and who works as a beautician though scores better with chicks if he tells them he's studying law, and Timothy Daly's smartly played polite, square-shooting collegian Billy, who can't convince his pregnant girlfriend to marry him. These characters are well drawn on their own individual merits, and they're played stunningly. Levinson unearthed a top-quality cast, most of them no-names but few for long.

Guttenberg and Stern had previous film experience, though neither played such rich characters as Shrevie and Eddie before. Kevin Bacon, who thus far had any been teen #2 and annoying jock #1 in a handful of slasher flicks and frathouse rom-coms, makes Fenwick a remarkable fusion of indulgence and despair. Rourke gives one of the best of his many memorable performances. Low-key and crafty, his shiftless Boogie also ends up being arguably the most good-natured character, and Rourke makes his gentleness feel engaging and genuine.

Levinson fluctuates the movie's temper greatly from scene to scene. Some sequences, like one at a strip club, where two of the boys get the band to play lively jazz and everyone begins bopping, are wholesome whimsy, and don't quite feel like anything else. Others, as when the group sits quarrelling over who's better between Sinatra or Mathis, have a gracefully authentic ordinariness. So does a scene in which Shrevie, who works in a TV shop, attempts to sway one patron to buy a color set, although the man claims he once saw Bonanza in color and the Ponderosa looked faked. Levinson isn't above sending his characters to see Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee at a local movie house, either. The melancholy characteristic of his material is engaged to its maximum degree.

However Diner has a lot more to it than that, and it doesn't seem to aspire to the calculated dependability that other, likewise constructed movies are after. Levinson isn't simply a fuddy-dud with an affectionate or comprehensive reminiscence for his own youth. He's someone trying to grasp that era, not just to evoke it. Indeed, Diner is ultimately a film we can all understand on a universal level.
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An East Coast "American Graffiti"
Lechuguilla13 December 2010
The underlying theme here is transition. Six young American guys bond with each other for security as they move out of adolescence and into adulthood. Given that the story takes place in 1959, the transition applies equally to American culture, which transitions out of the dull 50s and into the chaotic 60s. These guys will never be young again, and neither will America; hence, the appeal to nostalgia.

An ensemble cast allows for the film to be a series of vignettes involving one or more of the characters. As such, the plot seems jerky, almost random at times. Characters seem shallow, egocentric, and predictably preoccupied with romance and sex. I couldn't get interested in any of them. The story is set in dreary Baltimore at Christmas. So the overall plot has the feel of a very specific place and time.

The script is very talky. Not much happens. Characters stand around, drive around, meet at the diner for burgers ... and talk. Some of the banter is clever; most is just tedious. I thought the casting was a bit weak, in that the differentiation among the six guys is not as pronounced as that of "American Graffiti" (1973). Acting is average. Some of the chitchat is improvisational.

I was disappointed with the background music. Again, it is somewhat weak. There are a few good 1950s songs, the ones by Bobby Darin and Fats Domino. But most of the selections are not especially nostalgic. On the other hand, the color visuals do create the look of that era quite well.

It's almost as if this film borrowed its underlying concept from "American Graffiti", which I like considerably better, partly because of its more archetypal characters. Then too, the two films address a slightly different American constituency. "Diner" is set on the East Coast, "American Graffiti" on the West Coast. Maybe I just identify more with the West.
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9/10
I was there
Lorenzo195010 February 2008
I was born and raised in Baltimore, I know of these people.

The character who is seen selling clothing from the trunk of his car is actually a Diner guy. He wrote a book and in this book I discovered one of the Diner guys was in my carpool at work.

In 1959 I was 9 years old, but from going with my mother to several of her bowling leagues (duckpins that is), I discovered several of the Diner guys were probably working in the bowling lanes between 1959 - 1963 when I was going with mom.

Things changes as I grew older. The diner is still there but is now a liquor store.

I love this movie because it is true to life and the actors are truly like the guys I remember from my youth.

It took me several viewings to accept the film and I own a copy now.
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9/10
funny, smart, and mature; an 80's comedy triumph!
framptonhollis21 June 2017
For whatever reason in recent years, "Diner" seems to have been overshadowed by a disturbing cloud of obscurity. While it is a film that received great acclaim for those who have seen it, and from my point of view it is a guaranteed audience pleaser, not too many people seem to know of this 80's gem. Essentially, "Diner" is a film in the same vein as "American Graffiti" and "Dead Poets Society", except the characters are a bit older and are now forced to reckon with the frightening forces of reality. While it is a hilarious and witty comedy, "Diner" is also a powerful portrait of a group of old friends now struggling to adjust to adulthood and societal expectations. Concepts such a marriage and maturity are now at last taking their dramatic grasp upon this group of charmers who are now facing challenges they never thought were possible.

Dealing frankly with relationships, sexuality, stress, and the sometimes scary idea of "settling down" with a wife, job, and kids, "Diner" is a brilliant peek into the lives of a group of witty and entertaining friends as their age unexpectedly increases, forcing the task of adulthood to begin, truly affecting their lives with storms of conflict and confusion.
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10/10
Pure Magic!
namashi_117 March 2015
Barry Levinson's 'Diner' celebrates the spirit of friendship & relationships. Written with heart, Directed with precision & Performed Superbly, this 1982-classic is Pure Magic!

'Diner' Synopsis: A group of college-age buddies struggle with their imminent passage into adulthood in 1959 Baltimore.

I loved 'Diner', right from the start to the end. The narrative moves at a tremendous pace and the human-conflict among its primary characters, is infectious. Levinson's Screenplay concentrates on the true essence of friendship & the relationships we share with people in society. Also, the energy of Baltimore has been depicted most efficiently.

Levinson's Direction is excellent. He deserves distinction marks for his wonderful work here. Cinematography by Peter Sova is fabulous. Editing by Stu Linder is very well-done.

Performance-Wise: Mickey Rourke delivers a sensational, stunning performance. He enacts his part with remarkable conviction. Steve Guttenberg is unflinchingly good. Daniel Stern is natural to the core. Kevin Bacon is terrific, yet again! What a phenomenal actor! Tim Daly is first-rate. Ellen Barkin is fantastic & to a large-extend, the scene-stealer.

On the whole, 'Diner' has everything going for it. Its got heart & soul! Don't miss it!
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6/10
terrific up and coming actors
SnoopyStyle27 February 2015
It's Christmas Night 1959 Baltimore. A group of friends reunite for Eddie Simmons (Steve Guttenberg)'s marriage. Shrevie (Daniel Stern) and Beth Schreiber (Ellen Barkin) are unhappily married. Boogie (Mickey Rourke) is the slick womanizer. Fenwick (Kevin Bacon) is the prankster. Modell (Paul Reiser) and Billy (Tim Daly) round out the group. Their hangout is the Hilltop Diner.

It's a very impressive cast. Everybody is terrific acting-wise. However I couldn't really get into the meandering nature of the movie. I found it hard to concentrate on any of the characters. It doesn't have the light fun of 'American Graffiti'. I would have liked a movie of them just talking in the diner about their lives.
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Barry Levinson debuts
lee_eisenberg19 September 2011
One might at first compare Barry Levinson's "Diner" to "American Graffiti" and "Animal House", but that doesn't do it justice. The previous two were more about partying and the nostalgia factor, while this one is much more serious. The focus is on the relationship between this group of men in 1959 Baltimore, and the paths that their lives are taking. Each of them has his flaws, but is well-meaning. In fact, they all seem like losers, but they're all supportive of each other.

This was definitely a splendid directorial debut for Levinson. It's the perfect blend of drama with only the slightest hint of nostalgia. Like the other two movies, it has a great soundtrack, but that never distracts from the plot. If anything, it's there to remind us that these men are about to enter a new world, both with their transition to adulthood and with the coming of the '60s.

All in all, a very fine effort. Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin and Paul Reiser have every reason to be proud of this.
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