But the 1986 film version of 'Brighton Beach' holds up nicely -- so it's today's suggestion for free film of the day. Broadway was abuzz when Neil Simon's 'Brighton Beach Memoirs' opened in 1983, making Matthew Broderick an instant star and placing the prolific playwright-screenwriter -- whose talent was often seen as little more than crafting one-liners -- in the pantheon of great American artists. Last month, Broadway tried reviving 'Brighton Beach,' but the play, with veteran stage actress and former 'Roseanne' star Laurie Metcalf, went out with the tide.
But the 1986 film version of 'Brighton Beach' holds up nicely -- so it's today's suggestion for free film of the day.
'Brighton Beach' stars Jonathan Silverman, then about 20, as the sardonic, mirthfully hormonal 15-year-old Eugene Morris Jerome, Simon's autobiographical alter-ego. Gene Saks, who staged the Broadway play, had fallen from Hollywood favor after directing Goldie Hawn to a 1969 Oscar for 'Cactus Flower,' then scoring hits with 1967's 'Barefoot in the Park' and 1968's 'The Odd Couple' (both based on Simon plays), but scaring the daylights out of humanity with 1974's risible 'Mame.'
In the honest-faced and genuine-hearted Silverman -- and in Simon's balanced, heartwarming, Depression-era story arc -- Saks finds creatively satisfying ways to position this sepia-toned memory movie for the modern mind. What the Jeromes endure and hope for, what they give up on and finally accept, is as universal an American story as any person of any ethnic background can tell. In fact, not only does Saks ensure that his actors never lay on the schmaltz too thick, 'Brighton Beach' also stars uber-WASPy Blythe Danner as Eugene's mother. And the film includes a queue of Gotham-based stage stars rarely glimpsed on the screen.
Silverman's career has been, shall we say, mixed since 'Brighton Beach.' But these are memoirs worth revisiting.
Watch 'Brighton Beach Memoirs' now on SlashControl!