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Everybody Wins
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by Jack Sommersby

"Abysmal Waste of a Talented Cast"
1 stars

Desperately dumped into theatres in mid-January, it barely managed to scare up even a week of solid box-office.

Nick Nolte and Debra Winger are too talented to be starring in an execrable piece of nonsense like Everbody Wins, no matter if the highly esteemed, award-winning playright Arthur Miller penned it. While nothing could've possibly saved it from the calamitous depths it sinks to, commanding performances would've helped, but Nolte and Winger have taken on impossible roles that make about as much sense as the Book of Deutoronomy read backwards, and there isn't so much as an iota of humor to be found. (That everyone involved has taken it so utterly seriously only accentuates the weaknesses.) I can see why the director, Karel Reisz, who's never had a hit or made a single reputable picture in his mediocre career (The French Lieutenant's Woman, Sweet Dreams), opted to participate, but why Nolte and Winger, who had far more chemistry together in the acceptable 1982 adaptation of novelist John Steinbeck's classic Cannery Row? Playing high-profile private detective Tom O'Toole (well, high-profile for the small Massachutes town of Highbury, anyway), Nolte sports a Julius Caesar haircut and Van Dyke pointy beard, and he tries bringing some sense of immediacy to the proceedings, but he's stuck in a vacuum of inanity throughout; and Winger, who plays Angela Crispini, a mentally unstable ex-hooker who convinces Tom to lend his services to an eighteen-year-old convict who Angela is convinced wasn't responsible for the brutal murder of the town's prominent physician, fares even worse. Tom has a grudging dislike for the local politicians and police chief (he's famous for having helped get off a wrongly convicted criminal the year before), which motivates him to take the case on; and his infatuation with Angela, whose mood swings (she switches from streetwise-sassy to uber-intellectual from one day to the other) intrigue and worry him, keeps him on it. Angela gives Tom only a little information at a time, which lead to nothing but dead ends, and she refuses to divulge the full extent of her involvement in it all; his live-in sister and the town's presiding judge, looking out for his best interests, advise him to steer clear of both the case and Angela, who takes to calling Tom all hours of the day and night in frazzled emotional states. Scene after scene after scene goes by where we're constantly asking ourselves of Tom, "A romantic fool or just an outright fool?"

Everybody Wins hasn't the sustained tension (or any tension, for that matter) to function as a psychological thriller, and is too dramatically vague and muddled to pass as something by the likes of a riveting character study. The mystery plot is lackluster in the extreme, serving as neither a whodunit nor whydunit, and the detective procedurals are practically nonexistent. It's hard to discern exactly what Miller was going for, except for us to wallow in a perpetual state of quintessential gloom from start to finish. Miller wrote the legendary play Death of a Salesman, which was the very definition of a "downer" (I myself was no fan of it: Miller mistook his ultra-cynicism for stark "truths" that were far from revelatory), and he must've communicated to director Reisz that there not be a light moment anywhere in it -- the unappealing-looking town is constantly overcast with the most foreboding of gray skies (the talented Australian cinematographer Ian Baker's efforts are wasted); and none of the citizenry, who rarely smile and live in musty, nondescript homes, seem to take pleasure in anything (you can't help wondering what the town's suicide rate is). The film is enervating, and shapeless: the scenes cry out for compression; and because insult-to-composition Reisz has never developed anything resembling an expressive style or visual sense, we're not even afforded an attractive color palette to fall back on. (The atmospherics could appropriately be called "gaudy gothic.") And when Miller tries to be tawdry it's embarrassing, with Angela at one point furiously spouting obscenities at Tom as her scantily-clad self grabs and forces him onto her bed, and the audience all too aware of how mechanical and extraneous it is. There's not a single believable thing in Everybody Wins, and besides wasting a game supporting cast (consisting of Will Patton, Judith Ivey and Jack Warden) it's thematically incomprehensible, which is a surprise coming from a playwright who's always made it a habit of italicizing his themes. Maybe what Miller is trying to get across is the knowable is essentially unknowable when we're willing to accept an all-too-convenient solution to it, therefore the payoff can't possibly provide the release that it should. But artistically working something like that out in the mind is a whole lot different than expecting box-office-paying patrons to give a lick over something that is, well, something better left to a Philosophy 101 classroom.

Well, the DVD offers up decent-enough video and audio (with some surprisingly good channel separations), but those looking for special features on the disc will be disappointed.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24914&reviewer=327
originally posted: 03/09/13 21:59:08
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  19-Jan-1990 (R)



Directed by
  Karel Reisz

Written by
  Arthur Miller

  Nick Nolte
  Debra Winger
  Will Patton
  Judith Ivey
  Jack Warden

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