Saturday, February 10, 2018

So Fine

Ryan O’Neal jumped directly from the New York City set of SO FINE to the Los Angeles set of PARTNERS, and rarely as any leading man been stuck in two comedies this offensively unfunny back to back. SO FINE earned its notoriety for its outlandish story gimmick, which is a new line of blue jeans with clear plastic butt cheeks, and the controversial one-sheet Warner Brothers devised. The talented Andrew Bergman, who wrote the brilliant THE IN-LAWS and collaborated with Mel Brooks and others on the BLAZING SADDLES screenplay, both penned and made his directing debut on SO FINE, which was a flop that didn’t stay long in theaters (O’Neal refused to plug it on THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON).

The great Jack Warden (THE VERDICT) is wasted as a garment manufacturer on hard times and deep in debt to hulking gangster Richard Kiel (Jaws in the 007 movies). To get back the $1.5 million Warden owes him, Kiel kidnaps Warden’s son, an English professor played by O’Neal (THE MAIN EVENT), and forces him to run his dad’s company. Why he believes a complete neophyte can run a dress company is never addressed.

After starting an affair with Kiel’s wife (FLASH GORDON’s Mariangela Melato), O’Neal stumbles upon the idea that becomes the fashion industry’s new sensation, the assless jeans. The climax, much too leisurely paced for a farce, takes place at a cheap college production of OTELLO, which makes no logical sense in the film’s context and plays like an idea Bergman stuffed in a drawer years earlier. O’Neal is strangely sidelined during it, while Warden plays hero and Melato and Kiel discuss their failing marriage.

Whatever satire was present in Bergman’s screenplay is lost in his plodding direction, which translates to crass and unfunny (can you believe Richard Kiel in blackface?). Though O’Neal demonstrated wonderful comic chops in PAPER MOON and especially WHAT’S UP, DOC? (he’s recycling his milquetoast WASP persona here), he is lost in SO FINE’s desperate attempt at farce. Melato comes across as grotesque, rather than sexy, and Kiel was cast for his size, not his comic timing.

An occasional moment of wit slips through (“Moorish?”), such as the gloriously tacky So Fine television commercial (that no channel would ever run, but anyway). Mike Kellin (FREEBIE AND THE BEAN) has a great scene where he explains the deaths of his past wives, but Fred Gwynne (MY COUSIN EDDIE) fails to make a stuffy professor funny. The score is by spaghetti western stalwart Ennio Morricone, of all people.


Glen Davis said...

Ryan O'Neal spent most of his career wasting his talent. This is certainly a strange sounding movie.

Hal said...

I guess I'm in the minority on this one, but I found it to be another funny one by Bergman. One of my sleepers from 1981, along with ...ALL THE MARBLES.

Warden improvised the famous line from the top of the stairs, but not his observation on the streets of Venice. I have the original script around here somewhere.

Different strokes, I guess. I thought Kiel was well-used, I certainly never expected to see him disco dancing or lip synching along with "Walk Like a Man" in front of gawking diners. After that, seeing him as Othello wasn't all that unexpected in the finale. :) Melato was talented, but just didn't have many good opportunities in American films. I liked her here too.

Marty McKee said...

I didn’t understand why Kiel would stop to eat 9 cheeseburgers while chasing his wife and her lover? Just another mess in one sloppy screenplay that, as I noted, leaves the star hiding under a bed during the entire damn climax.

Warden’s line about Venice is great. Probably the film’s biggest laugh. Unfortunately, 30 seconds before the end.

Anonymous said...

Saw this on old Encore when I was young. They showed an eclectic mix. Haven't seen it since.