Naked in New York

1994 Directed by Dan Algrant. Starring Eric Stoltz, Mary-Louise Parker, Jill Clayburgh, Tony Curtis, Timothy Dalton, Ralph Macchio, Lynne Thigpen, Kathleen Turner, Whoopi Goldberg, Roscoe Lee Browne, Griffin Dunne, David Johansen.

REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., June 10, 1994

Hallucinatory hiccups. That's what Jake, the young writer hero of this Dan Algrant film, has to contend with as he has his first play produced in New York and fights to sustain a long-distance relationship with his lover in Boston, whose artistic career is blooming faster than his. He's working overtime holding it together when -- hic -- he gets lectured on his love life by a pair of stone masks in the wall of a theatre or -- hup -- counseled by the world's only orangutan with a Ph.D. These surreal fillips are indicative of what makes this comedy uncommon: uncommonly breezy, uncommonly clever, uncommonly rich with appealing, unconventional characters. It has more vivid figures than a circus parade: Jake (Stoltz), who gives a boulder to his girlfriend Joanne (Parker) as a love token; Jake's mom (Clayburgh), who sends her husband packing at a Jewish wedding reception in a Chinese restaurant; her friend Helen (Thigpen), who's never without a suitcase full of emergency supplies; Carl (Curtis), who mounts Jake's play and bluntly reminds him “who floats the boat” in this enterprise; the TV diva (Turner) who stars in the play and devours it. They wrangle over careers and love, spout off about art, all with wit and bite. The film echoes Annie Hall in more ways than one: its focuses on urban artists, tensions between lovers, between head and heart. It even has similar vocal rhythms, that stumble-speak of the so-smart, where ums and ers betray emotional insecurity hidden inside the sharp, witty, insights into life and art. But it's no mere copycat. The characters here follow their own quirky paths. The writers -- Algrant and John Warren -- make them capable of surprises. And they're fleshed out by an exceptional cast. The film can barely contain all of its choice performances, many of them cameos by artists playing themselves at swanky soirees (Eric Bogosian, Quentin Crisp, Marsha Norman, William Styron) or one-scene appearances in which the actor takes a juicy chomp out of the scenery (Browne as a college prof, Goldberg as one of the stone masks, Johansen as the doctoral orangutan, Dunne as an eager but terribly dense actor at an audition). Stoltz is a top of uncertainty, spinning from confidence to anguish, disdain to devotion, with shimmering speed, but always with a boyish charm. Parker conveys a similar blush of youthful indecision, but she bolsters it with a resolve to shed her reluctance and dive in where she thinks the water is deepest. Curtis, Turner, Clayburgh, Thigpen, and Dalton all shine, and Macchio does a sensitive turn as Jake's steadfast actor pal. They help keep Algrant's initial effort light and throwing off glints of gold. It's a bubble in autumn sunlight.

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Naked in New York, Dan Algrant, Eric Stoltz, Mary-Louise Parker, Jill Clayburgh, Tony Curtis, Timothy Dalton, Ralph Macchio, Lynne Thigpen, Kathleen Turner, Whoopi Goldberg, Roscoe Lee Browne, Griffin Dunne, David Johansen

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