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  Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, A River Runs Through It
Year: 1988
Director: William Richert
Stars: River Phoenix, Ann Magnuson, Meredith Salenger, Ione Skye, Louanne, Matthew Perry, Paul Koslo, Jane Hallaren, Jason Court, James Deuter, Marji Banks, Margaret Moore, Anastasia Fielding, Kamie Harper, Johnny Galecki, Melva Williams
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Summer 1962, and Jimmy Reardon (River Phoenix) is sitting on the train home beside his father Al (Paul Koslo), with a beaten up face and an air of defeat about him. Maybe this is because he crashed his father’s car that night, but as he reflects in silence of the events that brought him here, he thinks he feels closer to his parent now than he ever has in the seventeen years he’s been alive. Where this all began was when he was suffering the consequences of his womanising as one woman he had bedded had later telephoned him to inform him she was pregnant and needed money for an abortion; this was the last thing he wanted to hear, so handed over his college fund only to find out she had told the same story to three other boys...

A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon doesn’t take place over the course of one night, it takes place over the course of a few days and nights as the last high school term before college winds down for Jimmy and his friends, so no "into the night" storyline here, though if that’s what you wanted the last half was more or less that. It was based on director William Richert’s autobiographical novel that he had penned when he was a nineteen-year-old, but was only in the late eighties bringing it to the big screen. Not without difficulty, however, as the studio were at odds with him as to what shape the final cut should take, and the end result was more of a compromise than a friendly agreement, rescored (inappropriately, by Bill Conti) and blanded out.

Indeed, about twenty years later Richert assembled his own director's cut that he showed around various venues, though this was a little like locking the barn door after the horse had bolted, as in spite of the attraction for River Phoenix’s career there wasn't anybody except the obsessive fans who were really interested by that point. With Phoenix long dead, this attempt to widen his appeal to a more mature age group that did nothing but alienate the appeal he already had to his teenage followers was more of a curio, and the studio had sat on the release for a couple of years even after it had been made which indicated the rather woebegone status it held, popping up on home video down the years but that was about it.

Richert was convinced if the public only saw his version then they would come around, but given he had added his own voice as narration – the studio cut had Phoenix delivering that – it was perhaps that he was too close to the material to have the right perspective on it to see what its strengths were. And make no mistake, there were some very good elements to this, yet its main problem was the character of Jimmy was the least interesting in it, and he was the one we were stuck with. Phoenix’s natural charisma was much in evidence, but the boy he was playing failed to win many over as anything but a frustratingly self-centred youth more swayed by a mixture of unrealistic goals and the allure of the female form.

He did have some captivating females around him, that was true, but they felt underwritten, or at least neglected, when Jimmy was the focus. Meredith Salenger was Lisa Bentwright (check out the surnames the women get in this) his supposed girlfriend who he only seems to pursue because she refuses to sleep with him, though she does take interest in his manhood in one scene (below the camera, don’t get too excited). Ione Skye as Denise Hunter, a fashionable face of the late eighties/early nineties, was happier to accept Jimmy, but purely for her own satisfaction, wrapping the males around her little finger, and Ann Magnuson was Joyce Fickett (!), a friend of his mother’s who seduces him one evening when he’s meant to be taking Lisa to the big dance.

All intriguing women, though the best girl here was rich heiress Suzie Middleberg, an incidental character in the studio cut who observes with a wry take on her friends and their quirks, substituting "Tum-te-tum" for any home truths when anyone asks a pertinent question about what she actually means. You had the impression there was a really good movie concerning Jimmy and Suzie thrown together for a night on the town just begging to be made, and it was a pity the single-monikered actress Louanne who played her retired from film straight afterward; she had been a child actress and looked set for a blossoming career as an adult but it was not to be (she returned for a handful of TV performances twenty years later). The interest nowadays would be on River Phoenix of course, and he did his best, but Jimmy was never particularly redeemed, he just narrowed his horizons when he eventually saw eye to eye with his father. File under curate's egg, not a failure, but there was a better film struggling to get out.

[Simply Media's Region 2 DVD is bare bones, but the picture and sound are fine.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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William Richert  (1944 - )

American director, screenwriter and actor who began in documentaries such as Derby and A Dancer's Life, before moving on to fiction features, co-writing Law and Disorder and The Happy Hooker and making his directorial debut with the cult favourite Winter Kills. That film suffered such a troubled production that Richert and some of the cast and crew had to make another film, the equally strange American Success Company, to finance the funding of Winter Kills and get it finished. Richert also directed A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon and The Man in the Iron Mask, and co-starred in My Own Private Idaho.

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