Another non-performer at the boxoffice, All Night Long is a very special film, a wistful and whimsical little fable about infidelity, divorce and following one's heart's desires. Gene Hackman is a frustrated executive who more or less throws his career away by tossing a chair through an office window, but every move he makes away from his ordered life opens him up to new possibilities. The make-or-break ingredient in this souffle is Barbra Streisand, who for once plays a character unlike herself instead of doing her kitschy cross-eyed cutsie routine; you'll either be charmed as Savant was or be reaching for the remote switch. But give it a chance, it's a really cute, sweet movie.
In the 1965 film A Fine Madness office worker Sean Connery cracks up, cuts his desk in half with a chainsaw, and goes out into the world to express his emotions and live life to the fullest. Naturally, the authorities stick him in an asylum and lobotomize him. Gene Hackman has a much nicer time of it in All Night Long, an amusing romantic comedy about a man who loses the normal things that define his life, his job and his wife. But he finds himself open to new possibilities and forges a new path. In a way it's an everyday version of Nights of Cabiria or The Incredible Shrinking Man, other fables about people who lose everything yet rejoice to discover their essence still remains.
George Dupler has a more conventional experience; a rash action at work starts a domino effect in which he indeed stops caring about keeping up appearances with his wife or his work associates. His new job is the graveyard shift that goes "all night long" in a mausoleum-like drugstore with kooky employees and weird nighttime visitors - eccentric creeps and shoplifters. George doesn't so much adjust as spontaneously combust in his new position; it's all he can do to keep his trigger-happy security guard from shooting people. Soon he's self-medicating from the pharmacy while making faces at the protesting pharmacist. He needs the pills because he's living a double life, and sleeping neither at home during the day nor at Cheryl's place during his break at night.
George cheerfully rubs people the wrong way. Already feeling inadequate, his reaction to demanding relatives is to ignore them with a smile. Cheryl's fireman husband Bobby is a humorless jerk who has nothing but contempt for her and the inane Country Western songs she composes on her organ; he'd engages his free time in role-playing war games with the other firemen. George can't help but parade his adultery until his wife and Cheryl's husband finally realize what's going on. His only problem after that is to convince the insecure Cheryl to throw in her lot with him.
Director Tramont seems to be going after a classic French feel - the film plays as if its script could have been written for Michel Simon to be directed by Jean Renoir - Boudou Saved from Corporate Life, or something like that. Screenwriter W.D. Richter shows a good knack for dialogue and offbeat social comment - as when the view from George's flophouse hotel room immediately shows him a car wreck - and an even better flair for character interaction. Diane Ladd plays her confused housewife well, finally becoming irrelevant when George has the good luck to catch her in a compromising situation with her divorce lawyer. The wild-eyed (and very young) Dennis Quaid makes for odd romantic competition. Instead of fussing about the situation as in The Graduate, All Night Long takes the absurd situation of father and son lusting after the same married woman as just another unexplainable twist of fate.
Barbra Streisand reportedly came on the picture over a weekend when actress Lisa Eichorn quit or otherwise left the show. La Babs' multi-million dollar fee is said to have doubled the picture's budget. She's really acting here and not mugging, something I can appreciate after agonizing my way through The Owl and the Pussycat (here come the letters). Her pitiful little housewife apparently got married as a result of being rescued from a fire - she's something he brought home from work. Streisand not only doesn't provide a theme song, the only song is an awful tune that she warbles in character. I haven't a clue how she feels about the movie but I think she should be proud of it.
No matter how weird it all gets, Tramont tracks his picture with a number of wistful romantic cues that assure us that everything's going to turn out okay. Getting major play is La Violetera, a beautiful Latin standard that many people incorrectly assume was written by Charlie Chaplin. The credit on the film only says that it's the theme song from City Lights, which leads me to suspect that Chaplin made some kind of deal with the composer, José Padilla, to not have to use his name. No matter how talented Chaplin was, I still withhold full admiration for him because of this kind of egotistical behavior.
All Night Long is perhaps a good rental bet for those not convinced they'll like a film with Barbra Streisand. But it's a Savant romantic favorite.
French actress Annie Giradot has a bit part as a French teacher, to no great effect. Perhaps Diane Ladd's character had more to do in the original script.
Universal shows pity on us lowly DVD fans by presenting All Night Long in an attractive enhanced transfer every bit as good as those from other studios - no cheapie cable-TV transfer this time. The images and romantic soundtrack look an sound great on a big monitor. No extras, however. The package text misspells Hackman's character's name as Duplier, even though its correct pronunciation is a running joke throughout the picture.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
All Night Long rates: