Memories of Me (1988) Poster

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"I Am An Actor!"
theowinthrop11 June 2006
This film proves with JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT that Alan King was capable of a good film career. The story here does not deal with secretive billionaires and their angry mistresses, but with a man who left his family in New York City decades before to pursue a career in Hollywood. But Abe has never been more than a background extra. When his son Abie (Billy Chrystal) is recovering from a heart attack, he goes to Hollywood to see his father for the first time in years. Abie discovers that his father has never even had a real speaking part (the closest is when he was the sixth or seventh man in SPARTACUS to yell "I am Spartacus!"). Naturally, given the shattering effect that Abe's abandonment of the family had, it does not seem to Abie that his father had much to show for it. Abe, who has become part of the Hollywood community (he is usually seen with his fellow extras, but we see he does know Sean Connery by first names). He is reasonably happy - but Abie keeps dismissing him as a hack, not an artist.

The arrival of Abie's girlfriend Lisa (JoBeth Williams) does not help matters at first, but she manages to bridge the anger and contempt that the son feels for his father, and slowly they do find some degrees of similarities. Abie loves playing the trumpet, for example, and does it well. But Abie discovers that there is something physically wrong about his father - a sudden memory problem causing the father to recite a scene he liked from INHERIT THE WIND. The prognosis is grim. So Abie decides to help his father accomplish his greatest wish: get a full scene in a movie with actual dialog.

Most of the comments here have been fairly negative, insisting that it is a very lachrymose and overly sentimental tale. There is no denying that it is (ultimately) a tragic story - but the performances (particularly King as a proud and touchy man, who will not admit that his life has been less than a success) are good for the three leads. King's performance mingled pathos and comedy quite well. Witness the scene where he was trying to choose among his friends for the extras in a science fiction film, where he is dressed in a lobster costume. King shows his sauciness at a self-important assistant director, but he also shows the start of his mental/physical collapse in the same sequence (quite a change of pace). Similarly his interview with the casting director for the speaking part that Abie sneaks into is done with great charm and dignity. It was a first rate performance - and proved that King was an actor.
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Funny, sad, wonderful
john-5797 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I kind of feel that Billy Crystal did this film in part to get closure with his father (who died when Billy was 15). It's an amazingly good film and shows off the depth of acting Billy Crystal and Alan King can do. They played very well off of each other in this movie.

It's always nice to see JoBeth Williams on the screen, who I've always thought was scrumptious.

A number of the extras who work with Alan King are extras who you've seen in films forever.


Whenever I tell people about this, I tell them about the recurring question Billy Crystal asks his father: "Don't you feel like a putz?" The final punchline of the joke is a classic. (If you haven't seen the film, I'm not going to reveal that much--it's very moving and has even made me think of something similar.)

Go see it. You'll sniffle and laugh throughout.
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Doesn't leave behind any good memories...
moonspinner5530 July 2002
Billy Crystal co-wrote, co-produced and stars in this extremely safe and comfy comedy-drama about fathers and sons, adult irresponsibility and growing old. Billy plays a heart surgeon who has a heart attack (ha ha) which causes him to seek out his estranged father (Alan King), a movie-extra who fancies himself a big star. The screenplay is sub-Neil Simon--with one-liners galore--while Henry Winkler delivers a flat, inexpressive direction (stuck in sitcom mode). Crystal and King try their best, but King is overeager and frequently over-the-top. JoBeth Williams has another one of her thankless roles, but manages to bring her innate, down-home class to the proverbial girlfriend character. It's a comedy, I guess, but one that blinks back the tears...shamefully. ** from ****
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I Cried Like a Baby
dvdfan-1016 November 2000
Okay, the movie really isn't that good but it really does make me wail like a newborn. It's the whole father/son relationship thing that works in this film. I'm not a big fan of Billy Crystal but he's okay in this. Alan King is the real star and he shines pretty bright. Give it a chance.
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funny yet touching.
maverickaj10 October 2004
i watched memories of me on TV some time back and i instantly took a liking to it . in fact having also watched ' big fish ' and having liked the movie a lot as well , i felt it had shades of memories of me and forrest gump. where memories of me works for me is its story and the various ironies it hides . also the humor . what also works for me is that it really touched me

and it never was sentimental .i liked this movie. and dad with jack lemmon in it came out a year later . they both have similar stories but i liked ' memories of me ' more. straight from the heart , thats what the movie is . my favourite scene is the confrontation between the father and the son where they almost end up holding each other's collars. funny yet touching.
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Worth A Look.......
grabberlime2 April 2002
While the story has been told before and perhaps better,(notably Jack Lemmon in "Dad" ) this story of a father and son coming to terms with their relationship after the father learns he is terminal, is worth a look.

Alan King gives a wonderful performance in the role of the father. His scene in the casting director's office near the end of the film is worth the video rental itself. Perhaps a little overdone, but it summed up his life and career. Billy Crystal ostensibly plays the straight man, something he rarely if ever has done.
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Under Rated Little Movie
slightlymad2212 December 2014
I think Memories of Me is one of the most under rated movies of 1988. The first movie to be directed by Henry Winkler, I think it's a completely forgotten gem.

Plot In A Paragraph: On his girlfriend's (Jobeth Williams) insistence, following a heart attack, a disgruntled New York doctor (Billy Crystal) tries to make peace with his high- spirited, street-smart and often irritatingly careless father, (Alan King) a failed actor who never quit his dream to be a success, and is called the King Of The Extras.

Billy Crustal is superb, as is Jobeth Williams, but the star of the movie is Alan King as Abe who gets along brilliantly with everyone but his son. Sean Connery pops up in an uncredited cameo as Himself, who stops to have a quick chat with "The King Of The Extras"

Winkler does a fine job of handling the touching moments as well as the funny moments.
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I loved this film.
Stevesgirl10 December 2002
My father was from NYC and my mother was raised in LA. I have seen every film I ever wanted to and this one has the most meaning. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a loving heart. It is the finest thing I have ever seen on the screen.
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You've seen it all before
LCShackley14 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I like Billy Crystal, and I thought it would be fun to watch this film, since I know he admired Alan King and they would be funny together. I thought I had seen all Billy's movies but couldn't remember this one, and now I know why. It's so full of clichés and phony emotion; you can smell each scene coming (and going!). Billy doesn't even get to be funny very often. He's too busy trying to cry fake tears or show his angst at how badly his father let him down. Alan King himself is fairly likable, as is the subplot about being an extra in the movies. But what a coincidence that Billy just happens to visit his father just as a major health crisis takes place, etc. etc. Or that two busy doctors can just shut down their practices to moon around in LA. And when the end comes, boy, does it come quickly! Almost as though the writers realized they had painted themselves into a corner and the only way out was to do a death scene. Mostly disappointing with a few glimmers of good humor.
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Why is it not shown more?
russjfk19 October 2006
Really a good inside look at Hollywood and the movie making machine that it is today. Why do they not show it on TV or any other outlet, I found it well.,.......well just great. Best kept secret flick RussJFK loves it! You just get a good look at this film and the back-door of Hollywood. What the extras go through on a day to day basis on the set. I was one of them many years ago back in 1987 in LAX. Worked on a lot of films, enjoyed sitting on "the set" while we filmed. Every time I looked into the camera, I felt at home. I missed Dallas, Texas at the time and I was all the way in LA. But I found solace when I saw the camera, filming me, I knew that that was a portal back to my home in Texas and other homes across the country. I felt at home in front of the camera? Anyway, I loved this movie and wish I could find it on DVD for my collection, one of those good Saturday afternoon movies!!
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Comedy/drama with real substance
superhoneyginger16 September 2018
This film follows a quite familiar premise of a father and son discordance through the decades, yet it's warmth and wittiness will keep you engaged throughout.

It's of course familiar territory for Billy Crystal, playing the lead role as the charming, mild-mannered yet disgruntled son and medic, who's recently had a heart attack in his mid-thirties. The story deals with him seeking to reconnnect with his estranged and obsentsibly carefree father, while connecting romantically with Jo Beth Williams, who plays off quite nicely in a supporting role as his fellow professional in medicine.

The film is a consummate work of comedic writers and actors dealing with a a common theme of familial tension and life choices. I found myself grinning and amused at the leads chemistry/dialogue/physical comedy, and not once did I find myself distracted or disengaged with the film.

For 'feel good' comedy dramas, it's up there with the best of its period.
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Uneasy father son relationship
SnoopyStyle5 October 2013
Abbie (Billy Crystal) is a surgeon who just had a heart attack. On his on again off again girlfriend Lisa (JoBeth Williams)'s insistence, he visits his estranged father Abe (Alan King). Abe is a failed actor/extra who is slowly suffering from dementia.

Henry Winkler directs this movie. He doesn't really have any vision or style. All he does is just turn on the camera and let the actors go. And that's what Alan King does. He's manic. He's powerful. Billy Crystal is playing the angry young man trying to reconnect with his crazy father.

The pace is slow and cumbersome. The jokes come fast and deliver flat. Everybody is grumpy. I hoped the movie to be better. I'm pulling for them. But Crystal is just too grumpy.

The stuff about being an extra just doesn't ring true. It may seem right if you don't think about it. But if an extra keeps causing trouble, he'd be quickly kicked off the set.
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Putting a "human face" on the rat race that is actors trying to working in Hollywood.
oscar-3524 February 2005
This a great film for all the regular reasons: good acting, good writing, good themes, great production values and very watchable. This movie is a father and son film. But this movie also shows the non-Hollywood public those trials and tribulations of being a struggling (hopefully working) actor. This film also tackles some of the public prejudice against beginning actors and their starting acting gigs in Hollywood. Many people, wrongly make fun of, dismiss and attack starting non-established actors for their commercial and background (extra) work. This is because of the misinformation in the public's collective mis-informed mind. Many if not all major stars, ALL started as background performers. Actors gradually moved up through the chain of career successes. The key is persistence! All actors should be respected for their acting talents! This film does a great job in clearly illustrating how valuable any acting in this profession is worth respecting. A great inside look at the "background" of Hollywood acting and films. A great cameo of Sean Connery in this film from his working at Paramount '88 for the film "Presido". Many thumbs up!
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jotix10030 October 2005
It's hard to understand, sometimes, what can go wrong in the relationship between a father and son, when no physical abuse is involved. We know these situations do exist, as it the case presented by this movie that tries hard to presents a situation about the distancing between a son and his father, two people that are much alike.

Billy Crystal, working on the screen play with Eric Roth, try to make us like this story. As directed by Henry Winkler, this dramatic comedy doesn't add anything that one hasn't already seen already. In fact, most of it kept reminding us the work of Neil Simon with all its one liners and glibness.

"Memories of Me" makes a point to salute those unknown people working behind the stars because Abe, the father of this story is a struggling extra in Hollywood. The movie capitalizes on the star turn by Alan King, who plays the father. Billy Crystal underplays the son. Jobeth Williams also appears.

Mr. Winkler has gone for the sentimentality and the result is a film that doesn't go anywhere.
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a faded memory....
mcfly-3110 August 2008
Schmaltzy seriocomedy dealing with doctor Crystal's re-examination of his life, which at the core lies an estranged relationship with his father (King). So it's off to L.A. for in-fighting, pent-up resentments, and your typical barrage of cats-and-dogs-living-together nonsense. Like an old married couple, Crystal and King bicker, find some common ground, make up, then one insults the other and we're back to square one. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The major problem with the film is that Billy Crystal has never been more unlikable or angry. In a sense, he's the villain of the piece. King is the kid, carefree and footloose, while Crystal is his straight-man, constantly finding fault and prone to rages. Yes, we understand he was a bad father, but King's character --- though a typical curmudgeon --- has so much life and good humor about him, that Crystal's never-can-be-budged attitude is really a disappointment playing against type. A serious Billy Crystal is not an enjoyable one.

Crystal's co-written script and Winkler's direction reek of treacly melodrama far too often. The most awkward moment deals with an infuriated Crystal seeking refuge --- after an umpteenth fight with dad --- in the arms of his girlfriend. The violins are cranked up, Crystal disrobes, begins kissing down her stomach, they straddle each other...ick. All that was missing was slow-motion, perhaps. So maybe I should stand corrected; a love scene with Billy Crystal, is not an enjoyable one as well.

There are some witty jabs at showbiz, King's standing in the community as "King of the Extras", filmic references, and a touching moment or two that stay out of the aforementioned overly sentimental realm. Plus Crystal and King (both of whom produced) expectedly work well together, considering their backgrounds. Not just with the expected comic moments, but stretching their dramatic bones as well. And Jobeth Williams as their female foil, has never looked better in her life. She adds some much needed light and beauty to the mostly drab circumstances.

Don't expect much from this forgotten parental allegory ("Unhappy Memories of Me" would've been more apt), and don't watch it with dad if you guys have always had problems. You'll at least get a couple of quotable barbs to share with others, such as Crystal and King preparing for bed: Crystal: "I'm gonna turn in." King: "To what?" And one of the all-timers at a traffic accident: Cop: "Are you a doctor?" King: "No, he's an electrician, but he's good with his hands!"

Both those are few and far between.
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not unpredictable, but a pleasant diversion
mjneu595 December 2010
"There's an art to being incidental", says Abe Polin, king of the Hollywood extras, and here's a case in point. This gentle, affectionate comedy is nothing more than incidental entertainment, but it works, thanks to the textbook timing and genuine rapport between Alan King and Billy Crystal as Abe and his estranged son Abbie, who wants to mend fences with the man he calls "a professional embarrassment" after suffering a mild heart attack (brought on by a chronic lack of attention). The sentimental attachment to all those noble, nameless Hollywood extras is like a page borrowed from Frank Capra's scrapbook, but if the film tugs the heartstrings a little too hard at least it compensates by not force-feeding the humor, settling for smiles instead of belly-laughs. Abbie's sensitivity to his father's eccentric behavior can be tiring, and Jobeth Williams' gratuitous role (the concerned girlfriend) is simply irritating, but where else can you expect to meet the man who invented 'the courtroom wallah'?
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