HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Consequences of Love, The
Carandiru
Witch, The
Blankman
These Final Hours
Taste of Cherry
Jetsons: The Movie
Tobruk
Deer Hunter, The
Who's Minding the Mint?
Police Story: Lockdown
Tarzan Goes to India
Born to Dance
Honey Pot, The
Badlands
Masters of Venus
Disorder
Imitation of Life
Hail, Caesar!
Mississippi Grind
Survivalist, The
Andrei Rublev
Blood Orange
Tarzan
Mustang
Nurse Sherri
Aloys
Cut-Throats Nine
All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records
Scalps
   
 
Newest Articles
The Stars Are Out Tonight: Hollywood Celebrity Casts in the 70s
Super-Irreverent: Deadpool and his Amazing Friends
Made in Britain: Alan Clarke at the BBC
Manor On Movies: Saucy Sexy Spicy Space Sirens
Whicker Ask It: Whicker's World on DVD
Pawn Takes King: The Hunger Games and Death Entertainment
Short Sharp Shocks: Worst Fears on DVD
Spare Us the Cutter: Ian McCulloch's Video Nasties
Hooked on Classics: Ken Russell at the BBC
Shakin' with Laughter or Stirred into Action: Silly Bond vs Serious Bond
   
 
  Smile American BeautyBuy this film here.
Year: 1975
Director: Michael Ritchie
Stars: Bruce Dern, Barbara Feldon, Michael Kidd, Geoffrey Lewis, Joan Prather, Annette O'Toole, Eric Shea, Nicholas Pryor, Titos Vandis, Paul Benedict, William Traylor, Dennis Dugan, Melanie Griffith, Colleen Camp, Maria O'Brien, Denise Nickerson
Genre: Comedy
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Connie (Colleen Camp) has a talent, and that is enough to get her a place in this year's annual Young American Miss pageant; well, actually it was because she was attractive, for nobody among the judges was overwhelmingly impressed with her demonstration of suitcase packing, but there's a knack to not only winning, but getting selected for time on stage with the other contestants, no matter what other merits you're meant to be displaying. This year the Californian final is being held where it always is, and the duo of car dealer Big Bob (Bruce Dern) and former winner Brenda (Barbara Feldon) mean things will go as smoothly as ever...

Or that's the plan, but there will be more than one crisis happening along before the end credits roll. Smile was sold as a black comedy in the Robert Altman mould, but as Altman himself was releasing Nashville that very same year it overshadowed director Michael Ritchie's efforts here, which was a great shame as any of its fans would tell you. Working from a pin sharp script by Jerry Belson, he created his finest film in a decade which saw him produce the majority of his best efforts, an era which he never quite was able to live up to. That sense of American melancholy also imbued the story with unexpected insights as the last act came around.

But primarily this was intended to make you laugh, and Belson, a veteran comic writer who mostly worked in television, summoned up the height of his talent here to fashion jokes which not only provoked the chuckles and guffaws, but leant a richness to the characters which could easily have been satisfied simply to send up these plain folks and their aspirations, which we're in little doubt are not as terrific as they would like to believe. Or convince themselves to believe in, at any rate, for there's one chap, Big Bob's best friend Andy (Nicholas Pryor) who has become an alcoholic, not that his wife Brenda knows what to do about that. Neither does Big Bob, continually offering pep talks in place of understanding, and building up a local initiation ceremony among the town's men to little effect.

Somehow Andy's crisis affects his best pal, and by the end Big Bob is questioning all this pageant business and his place in the world, something that never bothered him before. Dern was a revelation if you'd only ever seen him in the bad guy roles which had established his career: given the chance to do comedy, he was hilarious but subtle with it - check out the priceless expression on his face when Andy points out he's actually "goddamned Young American Miss" - yet when the call came to be poignant as Big Bob latched onto the notion that this was as good as it was ever going to get, no matter if he was content with that or not, Dern shone with flying colours. It was one of the highlights of a not inconsiderable run of mostly cult movies, and something his fans could readily point to as evidence of just how superb he could be.

The rest of the cast supported him just as well, with Feldon, best known as Agent 99 from sitcom favourite Get Smart, displaying her acting chops in brittle form, and legendary choreographer Michael Kidd returning to the screen twenty years after another underappreciated cult gem in It's Always Fair Weather as the professional hired to put the entrants through their paces and routines. Of those contestants it was Joan Prather's naive Robin and Annette O'Toole's more worldly Doria, who she has an unacknowledged crush on, we focused on the most, though Camp and Melanie Griffith also made an impression, as did Maria O'Brien (Edmond O'Brien's daughter) as the pageant's sole nod to racial diversity, a Mexican-American who sees her act sabotaged by the casually racist members of the lineup. For all its surface gentleness, there was real smart to the humour as it made us recognise we were laughing at these people's pretensions and foibles, but also that they had to have something to believe in or they would just crumble, and that's why Smile was so wonderfully bittersweet.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 1088 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Michael Ritchie  (1938 - 2001)

American director, from television, whose films of the 1970s showed an interesting, sardonic take on America. After sour skiing drama Downhill Racer, he had an unhappy experience on the bizarre Prime Cut before a run of acclaimed movies: political satire The Candidate, the excellent Smile, coarse comedy The Bad News Bears, and another sporting comedy Semi-Tough.

Moving into the 1980s, Ritchie lost his edge with such lukewarm efforts as The Island, underwhelming comedy The Survivors, the not bad Fletch and its very bad sequel, Eddie Murphy vehicle The Golden Child and The Couch Trip, but he made a brief return to form in the early 1990s with boxing comedy Diggstown.

 
Review Comments (1)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme music?
Superman: The Movie
The Dark Knight
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three ('74)
Star Wars
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Great Escape
Halloween
The Ipcress File
The Magnificent Seven
Back to the Future
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
  Lambrini Vitsa
Dan Schneider
Paul Shrimpton
Andrew Pragasam
David Dent
  Terry Durward
   

 

Last Updated: