Barry Levinson directs Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin and Steve Guttenberg in this comedy drama where a group of friends hangout on in a diner in 1959, their lives on hold while they drink, make wagers and talk the night away.
A rich and pleasurable and attractive movie that constantly slips its leash. You can’t really tie down or get a fix on what it is. A nostalgic exploration of masculinity in flux. A teen comedy in the mould of American Graffiti or Porky’s only the characters are half a decade too old, they aren’t coming-of-age so much as actively avoiding it. A stunted romance hidden among slathers of male braggadocio and bullshit so the triangle between Rourke, Barkin and Daniel Stern is barely acknowledged by any character. Barkin’s frustrated bride is the character with the fullest internal and external life – thanks as much to the talented actress as Levinson’s extra care to write her so humanly. Or is it a movie about nothing? What Tarantino would call ‘a hang-out’ movie? An excuse for Baltimore biographical moments and great dialogue to be committed to celluloid. Very few of Levinson’s subplots are resolved. Even characters as well defined as Bacon’s drunk or Rourke’s charmer have moments that betray their personalities as we and their intimate friends know them. What do the interruptions of magical realism and thick metaphor really mean? The ending as a bouquet glides over faceless, scrabbling hands but lands in front of a collection of boy men we have grown to care about…?… I don’t know… Maybe it is all just an accidental showcase for the bottom billed but wonderful Paul Reiser to riff. Whatever Diner is I know I really like it. And I like how it avoids pigeonholing or easy definition with a nimble wit and alluring bonhomie.
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