film reel image

film reel image

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Barfly 1987 * * * Stars

BarflyDirector:  Barbet Schroeder
Year: 1987
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway, Frank Stallone

If Martin Scorsese directed a movie in slow motion and dirtied it up a little more, he'd get the ultimate foray into a human's bout with alcoholism. So here, I give you the little seen gem from 1987, Barfly.

Mickey Rourke in the title role, takes method acting to a whole new level. I'm not sure what happened between takes, but I feel that he might have stayed in character, didn't shower, probably wore the same clothes, and went by the name of his lead, Henry Chinaski. He drinks like a fish, inhabits the slumming L.A. bars, and gets into fights with a bartender named Eddie (played effectively by Sly Stallone's brother, Frank Stallone). When he's not fighting, failing to pay his rent, and aspiring to be a writer, he gets the attention of a beautiful older woman (another drunk played by Faye Dunaway as Wanda Wilcox). They form an interesting relationship that anchors a large majority of what's on screen. As they wallow in their drunkenness, Henry is pursued by a detective and a women news writer who wants to publish one of his stories.

Almost feeling like a film told in a dreamlike state, Barfly is a character study that revels in irony and self-loathing. It's dirty, free forming, and harbors grubby, all too realistic performances. The side characters are people who you'd find in an alley and kinda look like homeless vagabonds. This is truly Los Angeles at its most depressing and most hideous. The script is based on the writings and life of the famed novelist Charles Bukowski. And the short running time sort of ends and begins in the same exact way. There are some quotable lines, an honest, demented take on the concept of dying, and a cameo by the screenwriter and novelist himself.

Ultimately, it's Rourke's shining moment and Barfly succeeds because of him and almost nothing else. During the first half of the proceedings, his inebriated Henry utters the line, "don't worry, no one's loved me yet." Well this critic loved Mickey's realistic, balls out performance. Forget his Oscar nominated turn in The Wrestler. This is "bar" none, his best work.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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