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Clark Kellogg is a young man starting his first year at film school in New York City. After a small time crook steals all his belongings, Clark meets Carmine "Jimmy the Toucan" Sabatini, an "importer" bearing a startling resemblance to a certain cinematic godfather. When Sabatini makes Clark an offer he can't refuse, he finds himself caught up in a caper involving endangered species and fine dining.Written by
Scott Renshaw <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to Penelope Ann Miller on the Turner Classic Movies documentary based on Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando wore an ear-piece so an assistant off stage could feed him his lines. During a scene together, Miller recalled forgetting her lines, to which Brando asked his assistant over a hidden microphone for the line and gave them to Miller. She also recalled Brando telling his assistant at one point, "No, no, no. That's the wrong scene." See more »
The Komodo Dragon is an endangered species, however not nearly as endangered as presented in The Freshman. Its population is stable, and it is in no danger from man as it lives on an uninhabited island. About 3000 are estimated to live in the wild. See more »
What a wacky plot. Broderick is hired to convey illegally imported endangered species by Brando, playing Carmine ("Jimmy the Toucan") Sabatini, in order to provide million-dollar-a-plate dinners for a bunch of international degenerates who revel in eating forbidden fruit, or in this instance lizards. It's the kind of plot you dream up while sitting around all night half-gassed with a couple of buddies who have a good sense of the absurd.
Broderick is Clark Kellog (whom Sabatini calls "Kent"), a naif just in from Vermont to attend film school at NYU. Sabatini is the "importer" he works for and a ringer for "The Godfather." (The original was almost a self parody.) Those are the principal roles and Broderick handles the role of straight man, being sucked into a Mafia-like existence, competently. Brando is unforgettable. He tried one or two comedies before and they tanked, but he's a winner here, cracking walnuts in his fist, weeping with emotion as he embraces his new employee.
But it's not just the relationship between Clark and Sabatini that's amusing. It's also just about everything in between, including what we see of the film school, where the professor assigns seven hundred dollars worth of his own books as required reading, and is working on a paper that will combine -- what was it? -- Plato, Marx, and semiotics in a deconstruction of "The Godfather", or something equally insane? Maximilian Schell is a much under-rated or unnoticed actor. He consistently turns in riveting performances but has never achieved major stardom. It doesn't matter whether it's drama ("Judgment at Nurenberg"), comedy thrillers ("Topkapi"), or, as in this case, comedy. He never fails to bring something extra to the role. His first entrance here knocks the whole situation askew. Clark has enlisted a fellow student to help him carry this giant lizard (Varanus komodoensis -- they pronounce the specific name wrong) and a bearded sunglassed Schell ambles into the scene during the delivery, fondling a ferret, looks up with a big smile, and says, "Sabatini said one boy.... Here are two!" Clark runs through his explanation while Schell listens politely before replying, "Sabatini said one boy.... Here are two!" He says it a third time before ambling off. That's ALL he says.
I've seen this about three times since I first commented on it and, although this is anything but a "deep" movie, I've continually found things, mostly jokes, that I'd missed earlier. I must give a few examples.
Never before had I noticed some particular details in the scene in which Brando cracks the walnuts. I had just seen him cracking walnuts. More recently I've noticed that in this scene Brando, apparently dead serious, tells Broderick that he wants him to accept the job offer. "I don't want to hear 'no', I want to hear 'yes.'" And that, immediately after these lines, while Broderick is pondering an answer, Brando picks up TWO walnuts, rolls them in his palm, and slowly but noisily CRACKS them.
And another of the many allusions to "The Godfather" finally registered on my interpretive apparatus. As the end credits begin to roll, Broderick and Brando are taking the monitor for a walk through the cornfields in long shot. And we can hear Brando's voice offering Broderick some career assistance. "Y'know, Clark, when you get out to Hollywood, maybe I can help you." "No, please." "It wouldn't take much. Just a few phone calls." "NO!" "I could kick open a few doors for you." The penny finally dropped and I could see Brando arranging to have a lopped-off horse head planted in some producer's bed.
Just a few other points. One is that the score owes something to "The Stunt Man." Another is that Brando seems so perfectly comfortable in this self parody. He seems to be genuinely enjoying himself. His body language is exquisite. He lolls around in his chair, sticks his tongue in his cheek (literally), waves his hands, shrugs, and does everything else flawlessly. Sometimes his whiskery voice gets away from the Don Corleone model. I don't think Vito Corleone would be so indignant when talking about Polaroid and IBM on the phone. "I told you before, Charlie, I don't LIKE it when they go DOWN. Listen. I had another stock broker once and he only called me with bad news. It got very UNPLEASANT, Charlie, y'unnerstand me?"
And anyone who thinks of the later Brando as a bloated hypocrite who has lost whatever acting chops he once had should take another look at the scene in which he visits Broderick in the college dorm room. Broderick, at Brando's own request, recites a poem written by his father, a rather elliptical one, and Brando's character picks it up immediately -- "Ah, the cat." And the discussion about Curious George. And Brando's momentary melancholy as he looks around the college dorm, an environment as alien to him as the planet Neptune, shrugs and comments, "Well, I didn't miss nuthin'." It isn't funny. It's touching.
I thought this movie was very funny and quite original, considering the stale material it was sending up, and I still think so. Two years' worth of additional viewings hasn't changed things. You must see it, if only to hear Bert Parks sing "I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more."
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