SLIFF 2010 Review: FAT CITY
Review by Stephen Jones
While it hasn’t aged as poorly as some films from the same era, FAT CITY feels very much of its own time. The whole time I was watching it, I was reminded of 70’s staples “The Last Picture Show” (which also starred Jeff Bridges) and “Five Easy Pieces.” “Fat City” isn’t quite as good as either film, but it has the same formless sort of vibe that permeated a lot of films of the decade. But while “The Last Picture Show” and “Five Easy Pieces” had substance, “Fat City” just feels like it’s meandering a lot of the time.
I think the main problem is that it’s hard to tell whose movie it’s supposed to be. The first big scene is with Jeff Bridges and Stacy Keach, and the rest of the film is mostly split between the two. That’s fine, except the Jeff Bridges story is fairly plodding, and seems to have more screen time than the Stacy Keach story. The Keach story has all the big moments and scenes, and is better overall, which just makes me wish that it had been the primary story of the movie, with the Bridges part maybe trimmed down to the B-story.
Stacy Keach does a great job as Tully, an old boxer looking to get back into the sport, paralleling Bridges’ equally good performance as the younger, optimistic boxer. Susan Tyrell as Oma, Tully’s alcoholic girlfriend, was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. But the performance that stood out as the highlight of the film for me was Curtis Cokes as Earl, Oma’s boyfriend at the beginning of the film. Surrounded by scrappy young boxers and drunken histrionics, Cokes has a scene with Keach that was refreshingly plain and soft spoken.
As a look back on the era, or for people who haven’t seen much in the way of 70’s movies, “Fat City” would be interesting to see in the theater. Generally, though, I wouldn’t call it worth going out of your way to see.
FAT CITY will play during the 19th Annual Stella Artois St. Louis International Film Festival on Sunday, November 14th at 1:00 pm and 4:30 pm in the Young Hall Auditorium on the Lindenwood University campus. These screenings are FREE.
Actor Stacy Keach will be in attendance. The 1:00 pm show will feature a clip reel of highlights from Keach’s storied career, the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award, and an interview with Keach conducted by Riverfront Times theater critic Dennis Brown. The 4:30 p.m. show will feature a Q&A with Keach.