Lose Yourself in Wild Romance
Directed by Jean-Claude Tramont
Starring Gene Hackman, Barbara Streisand, Diane Ladd
Released March 6th, 1981
George Dupler (Gene Hackman) is upset when he learns he’s been passed over for a promotion. So upset that he throws an office chair out of a window. This leads to him being demoted and given the responsibility of managing a convenience store in the wee hours of the night. The Ultra Save grocery store has a pharmacy, security detail, wacky employees and wackier customers. Everyone keeps calling George “Mr. Doopler” instead of “Mr. Dupler,” a running gag that is never funny. The U-Save is straight out of a sitcom, minus the laugh track. The jokes must have landed on the page, because they sure don’t land on film.
George’s eighteen-year-old son Freddie (Dennis Quaid) is having an affair with an older, married woman named Cheryl (Barbara Streisand). George tells his son he should knock it off, since she’s married, and also because they’re distantly related. Wait, what? Yes, that’s part of the story, for some reason. Cheryl goes to the U Save overnight and meets George. We see her carrying a motorcycle helmet into the store, but never see her motorcycle. Cheryl and George have an instant attraction to one another and are tempted to start an affair.
Days later, Freddie accuses his father of sleeping with Cheryl, the woman he’s been cheating with (still following this?). Overhearing the accusation, George’s wife Helen (Diane Ladd) becomes apoplectic. George proclaims that he doesn’t understand his wife or his son anymore. He packs some clothes and leaves, saying he will take the blame for all of the world’s ills. Eventually he finds a dingy apartment to call his own.
George taking control of his disintegrating life is similar to the plight of Lester Burnham in American Beauty, but with too much wish fulfillment and without screenwriter Alan Ball’s insightful and biting suburban satire. Hackman spouts off juvenile dialogue like he’s a proto-Ryan Reynolds, but ultimately is miscast. Dennis Quaid’s role amounts to little more than flashing his wide smile, which is still more than Diane Ladd’s character, who is only there to be discarded by Hackman in favor of Streisand. Hackman and Streisand don’t have chemistry, and as a result, George and Cheryl’s romance comes across as creepy, not sweet. Especially when George wants Cheryl to reassure him that he’s a better lover than his son. Creepy!
All Night Long is a must-watch for Babs completists only. I know there are a lot of you out there. Watch the film to marvel at her outfits, watch the film to take in her hair and make-up, watch the film to revel in her considerable screen presence. Don’t watch it expecting a good time. Don’t watch it expecting a believable romance. Don’t watch it expecting laughs. Mercifully, All Night Long has a run time of only eighty-seven minutes.
Random fact #1: William Daniels of Boy Meets World has a small role. Random fact #2: Not only is there a dog in the film named Maximillian, but in the U Save, there is a large ad featuring the robot Maximillian from Disney’s The Black Hole.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray release features a twenty-minute interview with All Night Long screenwriter W.D. Richter (Big Trouble in Little China, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension) during which we learn that Barbara Streisand replaced another actress, Lisa Eichhorn, after filming had already begun. The director, Jean-Claude Tramont, replaced her due to what he called a lack of chemistry between Eichhorn and Hackman. Barbara was brought onto the film at the suggestion of her agent, Sue Mengers, who was married at the time to Tramont.
Richter is candid about the disparate visions behind the scenes that added up to why the film doesn’t work at all. I wasn’t prepared for his candor, and I appreciate it, since this is not a good film, and he admits as much. Richter places most of the blame on the director trying to make a broad comedy out of his more serious, slice-of-life script. This may be the first time someone buys a Blu-ray of a movie, only to find one of the creators of the film on the special features talking about how bad the film turned out. In addition to Richter’s interview, the special features include a collection of cringy radio spots proclaiming how laugh out loud the R-rated film is supposed to be and trailers of other, better Gene Hackman films including Prime Cut, Mississippi Burning, and The Chamber.