Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lenny (1974)

Adapted by Julian Barry from his own Broadway play, Lenny manages to be both brutally frank and highly romanticized in detailing the short life and career of influential, controversial stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce. The chronology hops, skips and jumps between Lenny (Dustin Hoffman) in his prime and the burned-out, strung-out performer who, in the twilight of his life, used his nightclub act to pour out his personal frustrations at great, boring length. We watch as up-and-coming comic Bruce courts his "Shiksa goddess," a stripper named Honey (Valerie Perrine). With family responsibilities, Lenny is encouraged to do a "safe," conformist act, but he can't do it. Constantly in trouble for flouting obscenity laws, Lenny develops a near-messianic complex, which fuels both his comedy genius and his talent for self-destruction. Worn out by a lifetime of tilting at Establishment windmills, Lenny Bruce died of a drug overdose in 1966. Director Bob Fosse chose to film Lenny in black-and-white, giving the film the texture of a documentary. Though a film as verbally graphic as Lenny could not have been made when the real Lenny Bruce was alive, audiences in 1974 responded, to the tune of an $11 million gross. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 111 mins
Lenny (1974)
Lenny to me comes out as an egotistical sexist that whores out his wife and then despises her for doing what he asks of her. Like much of the leftists of the time they became consumed by nihilism. Instead of finding new productive value systems, they dwell on the negativity that was portrayed at the time. Dustin Hoffman does a good job developing the character no matter how many character flaws from the original.

Other than Dustin, I found little value in the film.

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