Atlantic City (1981) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: In a corrupt city, a small-time gangster and the estranged wife of a pot dealer finds themselves thrown together in an escapade of love, money, drugs, and danger. Runtime: 104 mins Release Date: 03 Apr 1981
Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon. Europeans have always delighted in introducing America to itself. I am thinking of de Tocqueville and Nabokov. There is something very valuable about seeing ourselves through the eyes of others. In Atlantic City, assumptions about the American way of life, the American dream and the America reality, circa 1978, are examined through the artistry of master French film director, Louis Malle Murmur of the Heart 1971 , Pretty <more>
Baby 1978 , Au Revoir Les Enfants 1987 , etc. The film begins with a shot of Sallie Matthews Susan Sarandon at 34 at the kitchen sink of her apartment squeezing lemons and rubbing them on her arms, her neck, her face as Lou Pasco Burt Lancaster at 68 watches unbeknownst to her from across the way, the window of his apartment looking into hers. She works at a clam bar in a casino on the boardwalk, which is why she smells like fish, which is why she is squeezing lemon on herself to get rid of the smell. She is taking classes to be a blackjack dealer. Her dream is to go to Monaco and deal blackjack in one of resort casinos and perhaps catch a glimpse of Princess Grace. She listens to French tapes and achieves...an amusing accent. He is a has-been who never was, a pathetic old numbers runner well past any dream of his prime, pretending to be a "fancy man" as he picks up a few extra bucks waiting on an invalid woman.Enter a hippy couple with all their belongings on their backs. It turns out that he is Sallie's estranged husband, a deceitful little guy who has found a bag of cocaine that he intends to cut and sell; and she is Sallie's not too bright sister, very pregnant. They need a place to stay and have the gall to impose on her.Both Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances, as was director Louis Malle and writer John Guare for his script. But none of them won. This was the year of On Golden Pond with Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn taking the Oscars while Warren Beatty won Best Director for Reds. Best film was Chariots of Fire with Colin Welland winning the Oscar for his original screenplay. Nonetheless, Lancaster and Sarandon are outstanding, and they are both beautifully directed by Malle. Lancaster in particular demonstrated that at age 68 he could still fill up the screen with his sometimes larger than life presence. The familiar flamboyance and sheer physical energy that he displayed in so many films, e.g., Come Back, Little Sheba 1952 , From Here to Eternity 1953 , The Rose Tattoo 1955 , Elmer Gantry 1960 , to name four of my favorites, are here properly subdued. He moves slowly and is easily winded. He is a sad, cowardly old man whom Malle, to our delight, will miraculously transform.Sarandon's performance is also one of her best, on a par with, or even better than her work in Thelma and Louise 1991 for which she was also nominated for Best Actress and also did not win. She is an actress with "legs" this is a pun and an allusion to an inside joke about her famous other attributes–nicely displayed in Pretty Baby--over which perhaps too much fuss has already been made! --an actress with "legs," as in a fine wine that will only get better with age. She, like Goldie Hawn, Catherine Deneuve and a few others, have the gift of looking as good or better at fifty as they did at thirty.Louis Malle films are characterized by a tolerance of human differences, a deep psychological understanding, a gentle touch and an overriding sense of humanity. Atlantic City is no exception. What Malle is aiming at here is redemption. He wants to show how this pathetic old man finds self-respect in an ironic way and how the clam bar waitress might be liberated. But he also wants to say something about America, and he uses Atlantic City, New Jersey--the "lungs of Philadelphia," the mafia's playground, the New Yorker's escape, a slum by the sea "saved" actually further exploited by the influx of legalized gambling in the seventies--as his symbol. He begins with decadence and ends with renewal and triumph, and as usual, somewhere along the way, achieves something akin to the quality of myth. Even though he emphasizes the tawdry and the commonplace: the untalented trio singing off key, the slums semi-circling the casinos where Lou sells numbers, the boarded-up buildings, the sad, tiny apartments about to be torn down, Robert Goulet as a cheap Vegas-style lounge act, etc., in the end we feel that it's not so bad after all.I should also mention Kate Reid who played Grace, the invalid, ex-beauty queen widow of a mobster, who orders Lou about. She does a great job. Her character too will be transformed.If the late, great Louis Malle was running the world the gross transgressors would surely get theirs and the rest of us would find forgiveness for our sins, and renewal.
ATLANTIC CITY is one of those perfect little movies in which writing, direction, acting, and setting all come together seamlessly. The story is a subtle and wistful blending of comedy and drama that is both true to life and touching. There is great resonance between the characters' situations and the mood of Atlantic City, beautifully captured at a pivotal time in its history. Burt Lancaster gives one of the great performances of all time and really should have won the Oscar. Susan Sarandon is also superb, and their scenes together are unforgettable. Kate Reid as a faded gangster's <more>
moll is a standout in the fine supporting cast. This is perhaps Louis Malle's finest movie, and, in my opinion, one of the 10 best movies of the 80s.
I Don't Wear Seatbelts, I Don't Believe in Gravity (by WriterDave)
"Atlantic City" is a great film where the setting is just as rich and complex a character as the people traversing its streets and boardwalk . Louis Malle delivers one of the most understated directorial turns working with a delightfully witty script that has many great lines, like the one above and a great cast Lancaster perfect in a comeback role, Sarandon stunning in one of her early great performances . Things are so subtle here that you don't even realize you just watched a work of art until it is over. Atlantic City is shown truthfully in despair, in shadowed glory, <more>
and in the glitz and glamor that was to return thanks to the casinos circa the late 70's and the people inhabiting it gloriously reflect all of those varying degrees. This is the human condition searching for that first break or that last chance in all its quiet charms.
Grainy, Gritty And A Great Story (by ccthemovieman-1)
This is a little bit on the seedy side but it's well-done and Burt Lancaster, once again, provides us with a wonderful character study. This time he's "Lou Pascal," an old-time small hood playing out his days in pathetic manner in a dingy Atlantic City. In fact, "seedy" describes Atlantic City in this picture.There's nothing seedy about the opening scene, however. It's an attention- grabber, at least if you're a male. We see Susan Sarandon, squeezing lemon juice over her breasts at the kitchen window. Later, we see her do the same thing.The film is no <more>
lemon, however. It's an excellent film and Lancaster, Sarandon "Sally Matthews" and her husband "Dave" Robert Joy comprise most the early going. Joy's role as Sally's loser druggie husband was ugly but he doesn't last long in the film. The second half of the film features mostly the two stars, both of whom were up for Academy Awards for their performance and lost out in a sentimental vote for the On Golden Pond crowd . Not only do Lancaster and Sarandon excel, but so does director Louis Malle.Malle makes this almost a modern-day film noir with the grittiness of the characters and the setting, when Atlantic City looked its worst. It's just solid film-making all-around, and few people could play intense characters, young or old, as well as Lancaster.My only regret is the transfer on the DVD. It's a little grainy and this film deserves better treatment. although, come to think of it - the grain is appropriate considering it's a gritty story.
The setting and the characters are just right for each other. Atlantic City is undergoing a transformation, with new casinos and hotels dotting its shoreline while a few blocks in, out of the tourists sight, the full time residents live in what's left over from the past. Louis Malle captures it all with this story about a retired small time member of the local organized crime syndicate Burt Lancaster who comes into a small fortune worth of stolen cocaine when the guy that stole it Robert Joy is killed by the dealers who meant to buy it in the first place down in Philadelphia, and are <more>
now hot on his heels as well. Back in the life, though unwittingly, he sells the coke to an ongoing poker game in one of the suites in a new hotel, bit by bit, and falls into the romance of his dreams with young Susan Sarandon, whom he watched every night from his hotel room as she bathed her breasts with lemon juice in her room across the way. Like the refurbishing city its set in, he feels rejuvenated and in one instance even fearless in the face of the ruthless Philly dealers. The film put Lancaster back in the limelight for a while, and refreshingly so. Its gritty realism and characters, especially Joy, who makes an excellent hippie con-man, marked the end of an era of that realistic 70's urban crime drama genre that deftly mixed romance with drugs and violence, and portrayed the underworld, mostly minus the cops, so well.
Atlantic City is the type of movie you watch and say, 'Ok, what's the catch?' You simply can't believe that movies this well crafted exist. It's hard to trust a movie like this. One expects the movie to finally veer into cliche and contrivance, but it never does. The director, Louis Malle, has incredible discipline in holding back and treating his story and details with excellent care. That ability to hold back is very rare in movie directors; it's just so much easier to go ahead and produce a cheap thrill for the audience. The actors and acting is definitely a large <more>
part of the movie's charm. Burt Lancaster is great; his old-timer disdain and world-weariness practically drips off this man. But he's not so bitter and dried up that he can't enjoy life. Sarandon is outstanding, i think. She's also very sexy. Her large and liquid eyes are incredible!Overall, a great movie. One that proves that movies can be an art.
Burt Lancaster gives an astonishing performance aching with melancholy in this lovely, quiet little film by Louis Malle. He plays a one-time gangster in his own mind at least quite a big shot who, like the city that gives the film its title, isn't what he used to be. Susan Sarandon, in an early-career performance, plays a woman who works in one of the casinos and whose life intersects with Lancaster's because of a drug deal her no-good husband was involved in. The two don't ever become friends exactly, but they each get something from the other until the sad ending, when <more>
Lancaster realizes that there isn't a place in his life for Sarandon, and that there may not be a place in the world for him.The film is a low-key character study that completely satisfies, and gives Lancaster perhaps his last great role.Grade: A
This was a fantastic movie, great acting, good setting, and a good story. Burt Lancaster plays an aging gangster who teams up with a troubled young casino worker Susan Sarandon, in breakthrough role , when their lives get out of hand. It's nice to see Burt Lancaster in films again, he hadnt been in anything much since the 50's. Overall this is a great film, with meaning. ***1/2 out of ****.
Atlantic CITY Louis Malle, 1980 ***1/2 (by Bunuel1976)
Malle's best American film is also one of his finest ever though I've yet to watch his masterpiece LACOMBE LUCIEN  and an ageing Burt Lancaster, too - charming, self-assured and elegant - is somewhere near his best. Susan Sarandon offers solid support with a typically excellent performance, while Michel Piccoli and Kate Reid make the most of their respective roles both eccentrics in their own way .The film provides a surprising milieu for Malle but he manages to bring a European sensibility or, if you like a Continental style, to a fundamentally American setting. While there <more>
are a couple of exciting action sequences most memorable is Lancaster's killing of two hoods/drug dealers, his first 'hit' which makes him giddy with delight and finally proud of himself, after having spent his life spinning tall tales of his stature in the underworld! , it's clearly a character-driven piece - courtesy of John Guare's incisive script - and its tone introspective and bittersweet over a vanished way of life "the good old days" as they're typically referred to ; and, yet, everything is not bleak but actually quite funny on occasion! Atlantic CITY deservedly won several accolades at the time - including the Golden Lion Prize at the Venice Film Festival and quite a few plums to Lancaster himself - but, then, it was criminally neglected at the Oscars even if the film was up for the 5 top awards and was, in my opinion, better than most of the eventual winners !