Gowan McGland is a half-Irish/half-Welsh Scottish poet with some renown. He is also a total s*** - a boozer, a womanizer (his conquests more frequently married than not), lazy, and a leech, with a deteriorating body and bad teeth, losing which he equates with death. He also has his charms, which, in combination with his renown, leads to him usually being able to get what he wants. His wife, Edith McGland, also a writer, is well aware of who he is, their marriage which is in name only, although they are still good friends. It is because of her profession and her connection that she has been commissioned to write his biography. Because he is lazy, he has not written anything in five years. He is on a speaking tour to earn what little money he has, currently on an extended stop in Woodsmoke, Connecticut. His reputation in almost every sense precedes him in Woodsmoke - including his womanizing where probably only the husbands of his conquests are unaware of what's going on, and his ...Written by
This film is probably best known for having launched the screen career of Kelly McGillis, who charmingly and winsomely plays the young female lead in this story, a character whose name is Geneva (she is not Swiss but lives in New England, nor is she a banker). The lead role in this film is played by British actor Tom Conti, who had 24 years of film experience behind him already by this time. He still at this stage had an amazing head of curly hair, like a little boy. Conti has always been a consummate actor, as he proved so spectacularly to a mesmerised British public when he appeared in the remarkable TV series THE GLITTERING PRIZES in 1976, when he became for some time a kind of national cuddly icon. Conti does not play someone called Reuben. Reuben is the name of Kelly McGillis's dog (the real dog's name was Jamie), who plays a crucial role in the film at the ending, which I cannot reveal because of IMDb rules. Conti gives ones of his typically brilliant performances here, albeit of a highly unsympathetic character. He is a serial seducer of women and when he meets McGillis and falls in love for the first time, his habit of non-commitment means that he misses the chance of marrying the girl of his dreams because marrying is just not the sort of thing he wants to do again (having messed up a marriage with a very nice woman the first time round). Conti plays a famous British poet on a lecture and poetry-reading tour of New England, and remember that this is the 1980s when people could still become famous for being poets and they could actually travel round being admired, and rooms full of adoring American women would swoon over them. Conti has insufferable affectations, such as leaving a huge silk pocket handkerchief hanging perilously out of his tweed jacket breast pocket by as much as a foot in length, trailing in the breeze. It is meant to be 'a touch of the poet'. Nobody laughs at his handkerchief, and everybody takes him terribly seriously. He is brilliantly witty and a master of words, entrancing people with his word-play, ironic jokes, endless witticisms, and dazzling verbosity. There is one amazing scene where Conti is persuaded to go to church by Geneva (no, she is not a Calvinist either, but an Episcopalian). He goes up to the altar rail with his hands in his pockets, kneels down, and when the priest comes to him with the host and says: 'The body of Christ', Conti says: 'No thank you, I'm on a diet.' Everything for Conti is an excuse for a joke. The only thing he takes seriously is himself, being hopelessly narcissistic and hence all empty inside. This film is 'kind of a downer', even though it is extraordinarily funny and has an excellent script full of non-stop wit and irony by Julius Epstein and Herman Shumlin, based on a Peter de Vries novel. As a portrait of this type of narcissistic intellectual individual, it is an excellent film, exposing the hollowness of excessive self-love with merciless honesty. It is extremely well directed by Robert Ellis Miller, whose best film in my opinion was the emotionally devastating THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER (1968), which was one of the outstanding films of the 1960s and introduced Sondra Locke as a teenager. It should be mentioned that Tom Conti's performance here was so highly regarded when the film came out that he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor, and he well deserved that recognition.
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