Diner

DINER—-BOOGIE: “Oh, Carol, seriously, it was an accident. I swear to God.”  CAROL: “An accident? Your thing just got into a box of popcorn? ” 

Back in 1982, when writer-director Barry Levinson delivered his $5,000,000 memory piece valentine to characters from his young turk days in 1959 Baltimore, the studio honchos were disappointed it wasn’t like Porky’s, the mystifying megahit from the previous year. The executives didn’t get it, didn’t want to release it, were almost ready to shelve it. Even with review boosts from important critics, the suits didn’t push marketing. Though not a blockbuster, coming in 49th for the year, it still more than paid its way by grossing $14,100,000. Levinson–this was his first effort as director–was Oscar nominated for his Screenplay. Fresh faces in the cast saw careers either launched or boosted. Porky’s is just a bad memory, like food poisoning. Diner became part of the culture.

Six guys in their early 20s, friends from high school and before, use a local diner as their late-night hangout. Boy-bull philosophizing justifies their opinions on whatever comes to mind, sufficient for aiding What Is to hang on to What Was in the face of What’s Coming. They’re jerky and immature, but basically decent, and puppy-loyal to the codes of conduct they’ve developed. 

‘Eddie’ (Steve Guttenberg, 23) is set to get married, but only if his fiancee can first pass a football quiz on the Baltimore Colts so detailed it makes astrophysics seem like checkers. ‘Shrevie’ (Daniel Stern, 26) has already taken the plunge, but his myopic “rules” have wife ‘Beth’ (Ellen Barkin, 27) fraying at the seams.  ‘Billy’ (Timothy Daly, 25) comes in from out town to serve as Eddie’s best man, while ‘Fenwick’ (Kevin Bacon, 23) seems bent on dissipation. Smooth operator ‘Boogie’ (Mickey Rourke, 29) juggles law school studies with working as a hairdresser and getting in hock to thugs over bets. Hovering around the fringes is ‘Modell’ (Paul Reiser, 25), who has an answer for everything.

Definitely the smile of the week!”

The free-flow patter Levinson wrote for his jockeying ensemble would influence the likes of Seinfeld, The Office, Pulp Fiction, and countless gabathons to come, showing that with the right tools and crew something of value can be mined from nothing in particular. Reiser, Daly and Barkin made their big screen debuts here. A hint to those who find the attitudes of this insular Diner’s club/boy’s treehouse less than advanced: you don’t have to approve of their archaic immaturity to be amused by it.

You ever get the feeling there’s something going on that we don’t know about?”

 With Michael Tucker, Kathryn Dowling, Jessica James and Colette Blonigan (the “death” goddess ‘Carol Heathrow’). 110 minutes.

 

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