ATLANTIC CITY (1980)

Atlantic City

Directed By: Louis Malle
Written By: John Guare
Cinematography By: Richard Ciupka
Editor: Suzanne Baron 

Cast: Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Kate Reid, Michel Piccoli, Robert Joy, Mary Alice, Robert Goulet, Wallace Shawn, Hollis McLaren 


Dreams. Becoming an Atlantic City croupier will help Sally realize her dream of going to Monte Carlo, a symbol of the glamorous life that has been evading her since escaping from Saskatchewan a decade ago. Lou dreams that he was a great mobster in the old days. Grace came to Atlantic City for a Betty Grable look-alike contest and stayed to become the wife of a mobster. A brief visit to Atlantic City by Sally’s estranged husband will change the course of the lives of Sally and Lou.

This film has a certain quality that feels missing from modern cinemas.

As it stars and aging Burt Lancaster whose character still lives in his memories of days gone by and as he is aging. He realizes he’s not as tough as in the old days. The classic Atlantic Scott is falling down around him. It’s being replaced and trying to come back. Which represents him to a degree she is a interesting contrast that happens in the background.

This film really lets the camera linger in the beauty of Susan Sarandon. The camera loves her riding in this film and often just focuses and stays on her reaction and expressions for a bit longer then most modern filmmakers would let it last. It feels like the film has a crush on her and makes anything she does have a kind of exotic aura.

Today’s films often have constant cute that sometimes miss the character moments that films of yesteryear defined themselves. Allowing you to witness a performance and get drawn in more by character and acting instead of plot all the time.

Susan Sarandon hasn’t been this alluring since the movie KING OF THE GYPSIES, JOE And PRETTY BABY. Reminding the audience how vital and vibrant and actress she was before being the requisite sexy aging older woman in many films. As the film is powered by Lancaster’s character lust for her throughout and constant spying on her.

The film can be shocking as when the violence happens. It’s not sensationalized but treated more matter of factly.

Susan Sarandon’s characrer is jaded it truly one of the only innocent characters as she is the victim of everyone around crimes and misdeeds. So that in the end some might see her actions as a betray making her a femme fatale. But it only makes sense after what she has been through that she would do that. It’s not really a betrayal as Lancaster’s character seems to have expected it. Even making her rub lemons all Over her body. Which could have been exploitive, sexy and artistic as we and Lancaster watch, stare and admire her softness and her beauty. That makes her a true Screen icon and an ultimate Femme Fatale.

The ending is a kind of happy one. As it seems to be more about Burt Lancaster getting his mojo back.

The film is a crime thriller that takes more of a back seat to the characters involved in it. Letting them breathe as situations grow and happen to them.

Burt Lancaster gives a great performance as usual. He still has his charm and twinkle in his eyes. That commands scenes but lets him stay sympathetic and heroic. He was Actually the third choice after Robert Mitchum and Henry Fonda (James Mason, Laurence Olivier and James Stewart were also considered)

Burt Lancaster truly is the heart of the film in a role not too many movies are made to have these days. Where the lead is not only elderly but allowed to have major flaws currently not so much in the past.

The most moving scenes are the ones with him running into an old friend working as a bathroom attendant and they reminisce about the old days.

It’s nice to see Mary Alice in a character role instead of the matriarch and saintly older black woman roles, she usually plays these days. The arrival of new characters from the past long since thought buried changes the future for all involved. Reawakening dreams, hope, Happiness and plans for all. That has a dangerous path to get to there. You can see the influence of this movie in a film like THE COOLER.

It also works as a period piece like it’s characters governor by the film a time and place to represent but essentially a classic. As it shows Atlantic city aging and slowly tearing down (before getting a restoration eventually) That represents a bygone era that also seems similar to the characters. As it is a slow burn through that you never notice as you just enjoy being in this story and atmosphere.

GRADE: A-

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