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Surrender (1987)
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by Jack Sommersby

"An Irresistible Date Movie"
4 stars

Proof that the now-defunct Cannon Group Inc. could occasionally release something not just of quality but of a genre other than action.

In the buoyant romantic comedy Surrender, the always-welcome Michael Caine gives his most ingratiating performance as Beverly Hills best-selling author Sean Stein, who has quite the checkered past with women. As the movie opens, he’s appearing in court for divorce proceedings where his wife’s lawyer is demanding a lucrative settlement, with Sean all too anxious to get the matter out of the way because his new lover is waiting in the back waving a pair of airline tickets to Jamaica (he’s in such undiluted lust that he overrules his own attorney’s objections); we then forward a few years later where this same lover is suing him in court for her share of Sean’s proceeds from his novels -- the judge, burdened with a busy court docket and a paperwork-overflowing bench, rules in her favor, and when Sean asks the judge if this is justice, the judge tells him he’s asking the wrong person. Sean finds himself reduced to hiring a prostitute (“At least this way you get the money up front”), but he again finds himself the victim when he’s locked in his own bathroom and his wallet and Mercedes are stolen right from under him. (The song “It’s Money That I Love” punctuates each of these snappy scene transitions.) We’re then introduced to Sally Field’s wannabe artist Daisy Morgan, who isn’t having it any easier. She’s staying the occasional night with her boyfriend Marty (a mustached Steve Guttenberg), a conceited big-shot attorney who has a fancy Art Deco house and repeatedly snaps his fingers when he wants Daisy to do something for him. Daisy is frustrated with her uncreative job for a company that mass-produces bland paintings for motel chains (her boss keeps having to remind her, “We don’t want interesting, we want matching!”), and she’s unable to get Marty, who she tolerates more than loves because of his wealth (though she refuses to admit this), to commit beyond the financial comfort he provides her. Meanwhile, Sean is ready to sell everything and move to Kuwait because women can’t vote there; he goes to the office of his attorney and best friend Jay (Peter Boyle), which provides a priceless scene where Sean, in the downstairs lobby, rings for an elevator, and when two doors simultaneously open, with one containing a man with a snarling dog and the other a blonde bombshell of a woman, he chooses the former. Jay encourages Sean to attend a ritzy fundraiser before leaving the country, only the party is interrupted by a gang of machinegun-wielding robbers who demand everyone strip and ties them up -- as luck would have it, Sean is tied to Daisy, and they spend quite the uncomfortable time of it. But afterward, when the police have arrived and everyone is cut loose, Sean finds himself helplessly infatuated with Daisy; and also as luck would have it, he manages to overhear her name and address. To protect himself from a potential gold digger, Sean shows up at her residence the next morning in a junker of a car with the pretense that he’s a broke writer, and he and Daisy wind up connecting. Daisy is in fact in love (Marty is away in Brazil on business for a couple of weeks), but her bills keep piling up, with Sean flattered that a woman isn’t scheming to take him to the cleaners for the umpteenth time.

Given the subject matter, some in the audience may feel Surrender should have more edge, and right at about the one-hour mark the story loses steam and becomes a bit repetitive because the movie has painted itself into a corner with thirty minutes left to go. But this is to be expected from someone like writer/director Jerry Belson, who comes from a television background and whose only second feature-length feature this is -- it’s one thing to provide enough material for a sitcom; it’s quite another to provide contextual value for something three times that length. And though his visual sense isn’t particularly distinctive, but by no means lackluster, Belson wisely employed one of the best cinematographers in the business, Juan Ruiz Anchia (At Close Range), who gives the proceedings an attractive sun-drenched tactility that’s the opposite of what Woody Allen served up in his Los Angeles-despising Annie Hall. (You don’t have to feel guilty about succumbing to the surface pleasures this part of California has to offer.) Belson has devised a good many workable comic situations and provided a cluster of funny lines (when Jay tells Sean to get a prenuptial agreement, Sean objects that they’re so unromantic, to which Jay replies, “So are rubbers, but they work”), and he also knows a thing or two about tempo and pace, for Surrender is never boring even when it enters a rough patch because Belson has an instinct for getting in and out of a scene with some deftness. But it’s the actors who put it all over. Just the year before, Caine was superb as the vicious London crime lord in Mona Lisa, and he was also memorable that very same year in Alan Alda’s comedy Sweet Liberty as an acumen-derived, quintessentially-libidinous movie star who couldn’t resist the flirtations of the swooping women he encountered during his shoots. As Sean, Caine is a bit fleshier, with fuller, longish hair, and he doesn’t look “suave,” which would’ve worked against the character; Sean has let himself go to seed because he no longer desires to be attractive to a woman looking to cash in on him, so when he shows up on Daisy’s doorstep for the first time clad in a tan corduroy suit jacket and blue jeans and white sneakers, he’s the very definition of a nondescript everyman. Field had undeniable chemistry with James Garner in the Oscar-nominated Murphy’s Romance, and a year later she has even more with Caine; both seem to be operating on the same wavelength, and their give-and-take rapport is incorrigible, never forced. You never doubt for a second that Sean and Daisy are meant to be together, and that’s where Marty’s reemergence into the story comes in. The skilled Guttenberg doesn’t just walk off with his scenes -- he detonates them and gives the movie shots of energy. Marty is called immature, but that isn’t the half of it: an overgrown child, when he doesn’t get his way his voice turns into one of those incessant whines that could shatter copper plating. And yet Guttenberg never becomes grating. (Marty is one of the screen’s most likable jackanapes.) With Caine and Field and Guttenberg doing some of their best work, and with the good-natured, fluffy irreverence Belson has supplied them, you walk out of the theater feeling good. One gladly surrenders to Surrender.

Oddly, it still isn't available on DVD.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=28846&reviewer=327
originally posted: 04/12/15 15:21:48
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User Comments

4/13/15 Charles Tatum Inoffensive, likable stuff 4 stars
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  09-Oct-1987 (PG)



Directed by
  Jerry Belson

Written by
  Jerry Belson

  Michael Caine
  Sally Field
  Steve Guttenberg
  Peter Boyle
  Julie Kavner

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