Title: Atlantic City
Country: Canada, France
Language: English, French
Genre: Crime, Drama
Director: Louis Malle
Writer: John Guare
Louis Del Grande
Malle’s Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner and hence successfully procured 5 Oscar nominations in 1982, the Big Five (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Script) but lost all of them.
The opening voyeuristic gaze towards a young Susan Sarandon’s bare breasts is a brazen invitation to a tale of lust and passion, but when it reveals its beholder is a weather-beaten codger, an ethical uneasiness has been motivated on the subject matter as a knee-jerking response, a december-may obsession has its intrinsic inclination to prompt its viewers with polarized acceptance. Luckily, Burt Lancaster is spry and self-aware as the pip-squeak, who sends off a dignity-ballasted aplomb even when he is dictated by his old flame for money, and Malle and screenwriter John Guare mercifully glistens his twilight years with a belated opportunity to spice up his low-end life, and the ending is a tad out of left field but also understandable with its benevolent gesture to a sympathetic soul.
This is authentically Ms. Sarandon’s big breakthrough role, a simple girl always on-the-make and striving for a better life (getting married with a sad sack to get out of a provincial town, taking croupier class to secure a job in the casino), not that Oscar-worthy in my opinion, but she is a natural performer to oscillates between spitfire honesty and self-serving shrewdness; by contrast, Lancaster’s Oscar-nomination is more deserving, merely a cipher would be left unnoticed at the shady corner of casino shindig, finally pays his dues to save a lady and revitalize his own life, though Sarandon’s sexual allure is the precondition, Malle and Guare carefully skirt around the prickly issue by injecting a more acceptable closure of their relationship. Kate Reid, as garish as she is in the role of an aging silk-stocking widow, embellishes the film with her own way of levity (the ineffable expression when Lancaster cops a feel in her bed) while other supporting cast is purely bells and whistles.
I cannot say this is Malle’s apotheosis, my favorite among his oeuvre (so far) is still THE FIRE WITHIN (1963), nevertheless ATLANTIC CITY never loses its zest in spinning a yarn for the aged generation, and it is also a sensible elegy to those who dies without fulfilling their dreams, it is never too late to shoot a few mobsters!