Nether Regions 12.07.10: Only the Lonely
Posted by Chad Webb on 12.07.2010
One of John Candy's best performances is covered this week. It's also the film Chris Columbus made between Home Alone and Home Alone 2. You know you're curious...
Nether Regions started as a segment of the Big Screen Bulletin that meant to showcase films that have been discontinued on DVD, are out of print in the United States, are only available in certain regions outside the United States, or are generally hard to find. Now it is a column all its own! You might ask, "Why should I care about a film I have no access to?" My goal is to keep these films relevant because some of them genuinely deserve to be recognized. Every time I review a new film I will have a list of those I covered below so you can see if they have been announced for DVD release, or are still out of print.
ONLY THE LONELY
Starring: John Candy, Ally Sheedy, and Maureen O'Hara Directed By: Chris Columbus Written By: Chris Columbus Running Time: 104 minutes Release Date: May 24, 1991 Missing Since: never released in US Existing Formats:Out of Print DVD and VHS Netflix Status: Available through Instant Watch Availability: Mildly Rare
Only the Lonely focuses on a bachelor that lives with his mother. Once he meets a woman and forms a loving bond with her, he has trouble fully committing to her due to constantly worrying about his overbearing mother. There is nothing really extraordinary about Only the Lonely. The plot is similar to the Best Picture winner Marty from 1955, and it doesn't take a genius to predict where the characters will end up. People usually watch light fare like this for the characters instead of the twists, meaning, the journey is more fulfilling than the destination. If handled with some sense of class, it can be easily digestible and comfortable entertainment. Only the Lonely basically fits that description. It matches the laughs with an equal dose of honesty and pain from the situation at hand.
Danny and Theresa on an awkward date at Old Comiskey Park
This was the first film that John Hughes produced in which he did not at least write as well. It would happen again with New Port South in 2001. The last picture he would direct, Curly Sue, would be released later in 1991. Only the Lonely was written and directed by Chris Columbus, his second film after Heartbreak Hotel (His first hit was Adventures in Babysitting) where he assumed both duties. This came during a prosperous period for him as Home Alone had lit up the box office the year before and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York would arrive a year later. This was his equivalent of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. That's totally a valid comparison. This also marked Macaulay Culkin's 3rd job with Hughes and John Candy as he pops up briefly for a couple seconds.
Candy stars as Danny Muldoon, a 38-year-old police officer living in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago with his Irish mother Rose (Maureen O'Hara). He has a routine where he picks up a paper as he carries his lunch to work everyday. Danny, along with his partner and best friend Sal (James Belushi), work as transport cops. They pick up corpses and criminals and take them to specified locations. Danny's post-work stop is normally at a local bar, and that turns out to be the spot where he first sees Theresa (Ally Sheedy). After two drunken old guys bring their recently deceased buddy into the bar for one last drink, the funeral home director and his daughter confront them. Danny learns that she is extremely shy, but asks her out anyway. Despite a bumbling and sticky first date, they hit it off and eventually Danny introduces her to his mother by taking them all to dinner.
Rose was already threatened by Theresa because she was a new female that was rapidly acquiring her son's attention, but the fact that she is Sicilian and Polish only exacerbates the issue. Her insults push Theresa away quickly and Danny has difficulty standing up for her. Danny's brother Patrick is not helpful either. Once Danny reveals his plans to marry Theresa, Patrick tries to convince him that it's a hasty decision, mainly because without Danny, no one will able to take care of their mother. Even though the new couple care for each other, Danny's inability to put Theresa first and stop worrying about his mother prevents their relationship from growing. Meanwhile, Rose is regularly being romanced by their Greek neighbor, though she pretends to want nothing to do with him.
Jim Belushi has great hair as Salvatore Buonarte
The 1990's had John Candy accepting mostly supporting work, frequently looking for roles that leaned on the serious side (JFK). His career hit a slump during this decade due to his pictures frequently flopping. Only the Lonely was no different in terms of box office success, but what it did prove was how skilled Candy could be as a dramatic actor. Danny Muldoon was easily the most emotionally profound performance he ever furnished, not his best mind you, but it certainly exhibits his range better than the majority of the other parts on his resume. Candy was adept at playing the companionless, yet affable everyman in Danny Muldoon. He's someone that everyone in town knows and likes, but never expects to see him with a lady. His friends joke about how long it's been since he had a date.
His presence alone could make you chuckle, but combine that with his priceless expressions and body movements and you have a uniquely memorable comedian in John Candy. As mature and honed as his acting is here, the scenes that aim for humor stand out ahead of the rest. My favorite moment is when Danny asks Theresa out for the first time, giving her a list of cliché reasons why she would say no and asking her if any of those apply. After she agrees to go out with him, he exclaims his victory outside as a coffin is being put into a hearse. Awkward conversation ensues. Candy also has some wonderful exchanges with his brother, portrayed by Kevin Dunn. One tense instance has Patrick calling Theresa "plain." As lovable and hilarious as Candy is, his ability to shift into angry mode is unmistakable. Uncle Buck possesses a few of those sequences.
He also engages in some nice verbal sparring with Maureen O'Hara, who was returning to the screen after 20 years, her last feature being Big Jake aside from a made-for-TV movie. O'Hara is quite funny, especially when she is chastising Theresa. She teases her about her small chest. Her exaggerated turn during Danny's worried daydream sequences were also hysterical. I have no doubts that there were/are mothers that act just like Rose, overprotective, manipulative, mean (with shades of kindness underneath), and stubborn, but O'Hara veers ever so close to caricature without actually plunging into to that pool. Still, she slides into the part effortlessly with her native accent, and was a welcomed face.
The Greek gardener plants a firm one on Maureen O'Hara
It goes without saying that Ally Sheedy's most active period was the 1980's, and by the time Only the Lonely was released she was past her peak. After this she would appear in a bunch of random titles, television films, and guest appearances on a number of shows. As Theresa, she basically has to look coy, nervous, and somewhat bizarre. This woman is a mortuary cosmetician after all. She even fashions the dead to resemble famous celebrities, to practice for her Hollywood aspirations. Theresa and Allison in The Breakfast Club are undeniably similar in spots. The bonus is that Candy can establish chemistry with just about anyone, so one believes that he has feelings for this socially repressed girl. James Belushi supplies some sharp one-liners as Danny's friend Sal, though he should have had more time. Anthony Quinn is also outstanding as the Greek next door, who spouts lines at Rose like: "Come to my bed. You will never leave."
Only the Lonely might be predictable and incredibly reserved considering Candy is the lead, but it never resorts to bathos and is hardly desperate to tug at our heart strings. Columbus, who already had Gremlins and The Goonies under his belt as a screenwriter conveys his strengths here at crafting dialogue that is humorous and touching but not cheaply sentimental. Columbus and cinematographer Julio Macat capture the windy city superbly. Old Comiskey Park even gets a cameo, shortly before it was torn down. Hughes and Columbus utilize Home Alone crew members such as editor Raja Gosnell and production designer John Muto to instill that cozy and hospitable atmosphere that is so prevalent in their pictures.
Chris Columbus wrote the script with Maureen O'Hara in mind for the role of the mother, but she was obviously long retired. He allegedly based it on her character from The Quiet Man. Columbus gave the script to her brother, who showed it to her, and she loved it, but only signed on after she met John Candy and the two of them became friends. In an odd side story, O'Hara was not given a trailer because it wasn't in the budget. Candy immediately complained that someone of her status should not be disrespected, and gave her his trailer. The studio eventually presented a new one for Candy because they couldn't have the star without a trailer.
Only the Lonely is about breaking a routine, embracing change, and how love can sprout at the most unlikely of times. These are characters we can identify with, and though the trajectory of the screenplay can be seen a mile away, we understand these people. This is a pleasant and sincere film, which of course includes the titular song from Roy Orbison in the opening credits. It has been on DVD, but went out of print. No word on why it is unavailable, but it could be for any number of conventional reasons.
- I caught Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice on Broadway recently and it was a very good show. I was not overly familiar with that particular Shakespeare story, but I enjoyed it. Pacino of course was terrific, but Jesse Martin and the uncle from Home Alone (Gerry Bamman) were also notable cast members. There were a lot of memorable performances and some that were mediocre, but it a great show to see if you get the chance.
- The rest of my week has consisted of playing catch up with some of my end of the year lists. I have been listening to a few CDs that were highpraised, in addition to watching some good and bad films that slipped by me. I'm still finding time to buy some new releases as well. Speaking of which, tomorrow the Criterion Collection releases Guillermo Del Toro's Cronos, but Inception also hits stores. I won't be able to wait for Christmas for either of those.
- Other than that it's been a pretty uneventful week, but busy at the same time. Apart from work, work, work, I am still seeing movies in the theater, and for this time of year, it's mostly limited releases. Keep an eye out for reviews of Black Swan and The King's Speech soon.