There have been lonely guys on this planet as long as there have been guys, even back in the caveman days there was one poor sap stuck outside his cave with no woman to talk to, and in the future when mankind leaves this world you can guarantee there's always going to be someone landed with piloting the spacecraft while a couple has fun in the zero gravity. But we are going to follow the story of one lonely guy in particular, New Yorker Larry Hubbard (Steve Martin) who works as a greetings card writer and does very well with it, yet his personal life leaves something to be desired. When he gets home today, he finds his girlfriend Danielle (Robyn Douglass) there...
And she's not alone as Larry soon discovers her in bed with one of the men from her dance company, though he doesn't quite know how to react until it dawns on him as he is shown the door and asked to take out the garbage as he leaves that his girlfriend isn't really girlfriend material. His loser credentials thus well and truly established, the rest of the movie tries to dig him out of the hole he has found himself in, except rather than take a downbeat, doleful approach the filmmakers took into account what star Steve Martin was used to appearing in and aimed for a wacky comedy, only with asides to make the audience feel very sorry for him and his lack of success with the ladies.
Which naturally made for a movie pulling in two directions so that it couldn't make up its mind just where it was going with this humour lark: was it character-based or was it gag-based, or was it an awkward mix of the two? Certainly there were parts which tried to render Larry with more depth than Martin's previous starring roles in comedy had enjoyed as he makes a friend with a man even lonelier than he is, Warren Evans, played by Charles Grodin without his toupee for reasons best known to himself. Warren has plenty of advice about how to live your life as a sad bastard, only they don't call themselves that, they are termed "lonely guy" which everyone in the film seems to know the derivation of and when to correctly apply it.
That such folks are still called losers and not lonely guys in the modern parlance should give some idea of how far the terminology of this and the Bruce Jay Friedman self-help book it was an adaptation of (Neil Simon had a hand in the script) was pursued into popular culture, but then the book ended up largely forgotten and the film went much the same way aside from occasional showings on late night television. However, there was a small coterie of appreciation from the sort of man who would stay up to watch such movies, not having anything else to do at that time of the evening and found Martin's personality here appealling as they recognised his downtrodden dilemma. Martin was on record as loving the source book, so was he in fact now the poster boy for the loveless?
Probably not as he didn't try much like this again and was also on record for not believing the film was as accomplished as he would have wanted, although that was oddly appropriate for a film about life's underachievers in relationships being an underachiever in its chosen metier as well. With Warren as his guide, Larry is on a road to nowhere as the message seems to be that a man's gotta know his limitations and if that means never finding Miss Right then so be it. Our hapless hero is not giving in without a fight mind you, and sets out to try and persuade some lovely lady to give him the time of day never mind be his romantic partner which proves a useless task - getting a pet dog or a pet fern is an obvious pointer to your desperation, apparently, not to mention pretending to jog marathons daily. That is until he stumbles upon Iris (Judith Ivey) in a diner who seems available, but obstacles are constantly put in his path, and that's the real problem with The Lonely Guy, it forgets believability in favour of a string of absurdist jokes with no grounding in reality. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.