Modern Romance (Albert Brooks, 1981)


Alright, so Albert Brooks is basically a poor man’s Woody Allen.  Woody’s more skilled as a filmmaker overall, and any given screenplay of his is tighter, more focused (amazingly, considering how many tangents any given conversation in a Woody Allen screenplay can go on), and with more fleshed out, fully-realized characters.  But Albert Brooks as actor, director, and screenwriter (co-screenwriter in “Modern Romance,” actually) certainly ain’t no slouch.  “Modern Romance” could use some more focus, with much of it just Albert Brooks as film editor Robert Cole high on quaaludes and talking to himself or on the phone about god knows what (or not high on quaaludes and talking to himself and on the phone about god knows what…) for way too long, or the out-of-left-field tangent involving he and co-editor Bruno Kirby editing a shitty sci-fi movie starring George Kennedy (which might actually be a welcome tangent, just to give us a break from Albert Brooks showering us with bizarre neuroses).  And, shocking as it may be, Robert Cole out-neurotics a typical Woody Allen character.  A Woody Allen character a la Alvy Singer is neurotic and unstable and annoying as sin, sure, but likable.  Albert Brooks as Robert Cole is so neurotic, so jealous of any person his girlfriend Mary dares to even talk to on the phone or meet with for a business dinner, and so paranoid that Mary’s somehow gonna go behind his back about something and that the world’s against him that, well, the man’s just plain creepy.  It’s a small miracle that Mary is as patient with this shrew of a man as she is and finds the strength to keep going back to him…which is probably why you root for their relationship to succeed despite the two being so mismatched.  This movie needed a straight-faced, NORMAL person to complement the over-the-top motormouth Brooks, and Kathryn Harrold is great.  Mary’s quiet and subtle, the polar opposite of Robert, which is probably why they make such a great pair that’s doomed to failure, and success, and failure, and success, etc. etc.  And it’s clever, a hell of a lot more clever than a run of the mill rom-com (some of Brooks’ random-as-hell monologues actually feel unscripted and improvised, which is just fantastic until they start going on too damn long), and I laughed.  So who am I to complain?  Good stuff 🙂


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