Nothing in Common
Image // PG // $17.97 // January 31, 2012
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted March 2, 2012
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Nothing in Common (1986) was an early career-defining role for star Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason's last film ever. He died almost one year to the day after this was released, and during production was terminally ill with colon cancer, liver cancer, and thrombosed hemorrhoids, though outwardly he appears fine.

The picture was moderately successful, even inspiring a short-lived TV version (starring Todd Waring and Bill Macy). Seen today, it's very much a product of the 1980s, particularly Hanks' flippant, Yuppie Peter Pan-like persona from that phase of his career. Written by Rick Rodell and Michael Preminger and directed by Garry Marshall, Nothing In Common is at 118 minutes criminally overlong and not very funny, but its more serious second-half affords Hanks and Gleason, as well as co-star Eva Marie Saint, some nice dramatic scenes.

A no-frills release from Image, this early Tri-Star Pictures production (pre-Sony, when Tri-Star really was a triumvirate, of Columbia Pictures, HBO, and CBS), as a region A Blu-ray offers a decent high-def image with uncompressed PCM mono audio, this being among the last major studio releases not in stereo. The IMDb lists this as being shot in Super 35 and originally released with 2.35:1 anamorphic prints. That's possible, and I didn't see it when it was new, but the 1.85:1 version here appears properly framed, at least to my eyes. No extras.

Wildly successful, Chicago-based advertising executive David Basner (Hanks) leads a carefree life. Making oodles of money and newly promoted by his hair-conscious boss (Hector Elizondo), David is a constant kidder, never taking anything seriously, including his relationships with women. Both at home and at the office, life's just one big party. (Among his co-workers is The Simpsons' Dan Castellaneta.)

But then his mother, Lorraine (Saint), suddenly walks out on his bitter, garment salesman father, Max (Gleason), after 35 years of marriage. David's mother is eager to move on with her life, despite trepidations, but surly Max merely digs in his heels, refusing to face the consequences of his years as a neglectful, unfaithful husband. Further, Max's health is deteriorating as the result of undiagnosed diabetes.

Nothing in Common comes to life during virtually all the scenes between Hanks and Gleason. Just as many were surprised by comedian Gleason's straight dramatic roles in several important early '60s films (The Hustler, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Gigot), Nothing in Common demonstrated Hanks was no slouch in straight roles, either. Working with Gleason "was like working with the Pope," Hanks once said.

These scenes work best when they approach some level emotional honesty, of a son angry at his father for the mistakes made in raising him; the father's frustration and embarrassment at having to turn to his son for help after losing his wife, losing his job, and, finally, losing his health; his denial about a life-threatening illness. Probably well aware of his own terminal illness, Gleason is especially good here. He's clearly approaching it as a kind of last hurrah.

Hanks's cocky charmer screen persona catapulted him to stardom in early films like Splash, Bachelor Party, and Big, but it's a character that's pretty hard to take in 2012. In Nothing in Common particularly, it's very much a product of the Reagan-fueled '80s: David is a self-involved Yuppie, a Mad Man who becomes rich doing work that comes to him effortlessly, in an environment that's like a fraternity house. Women, in this instance played by Sela Ward (curiously unbilled on the poster, despite the size of her role) are drawn to this everyman chiefly by his wealth and power.

Ultimately, of course, David puts his father ahead of his own selfish interests, but seen today it's not an appealing character. Further, the movie's subplot, following David's efforts to woo a reluctant client (played by Barry Corbin) is tiresome, eating up much of the film's already overlong running time.

Video & Audio

Presented in 1.85:1 1080p, Nothing In Common looks better than it probably did in theaters (35mm release prints were notoriously bad during the mid-1980s). The title elements are a bit soft, but the rest of the film looks just fine. The uncompressed PCM mono likewise serves its function. No alternate audio or subtitle options, and no Extra Features.

Parting Thoughts

Not very good but still worth a look for the scenes between stars Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason, Nothing In Common is a Rent It.

Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf - The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and special features for Tora-san . Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.

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