“Yesterday I bought my first pair of American shoes. They were made in Italy.” – Vladimir Ivanoff
Number of Times Seen – at least three times (cable in the 80’s and 25 Aug 2019)
Brief Synopsis – A Russian musician on tour with a circus in New York contemplates defection.
My Take on it – This is a film that I recall seeing on cable a few times as a kid in the 80’s and I know realize that I didn’t understand it at all at that time.
The story as told here doesn’t come across as being profound enough and is overall much too weak to make the situations presented entertaining and enjoyable enough.
Robin Williams usually soars in dramatic roles, but he misfires with this role and he makes his character come across as being much too mediocre in all that he does.
The story moves along as a really slow pace and there is the constant feeling that something feels missing in the plot to make it feel more poignant or impactful especially when dealing with the emotional aspects of citizenship.
The scene in the department store is the quite good especially since they are able to get the chaos of the whole situation down pat.
The way that they depict this scene says so much about the situation where no one truly understands what is happening.
The romance between Williams and Maria Conchita Alonzo also doesn’t work well enough and it’s difficult to believe the relationship as presented.
Unfortunately, besides this scene, the film itself fails to reach the heights that it strives for.
This problem here is that this film apparently doesn’t age well at all and was probably much more interesting to watch during the height of the Cold War in the 1980’s.
Bottom Line – Not a very profound story that is too weak to be entertaining enough. Williams seems a bit too out of place in this role and this is one of hos dramatic failures because he comes across as too mediocre as this character. Williams’ chemistry with Conchita Alozo is also lacking and doesn’t work well enough to believe. The story itself moves along quite slowly and feels as if something is missing that would help make this movie feel more satisfying. The scene in the department store is good because the chaos says so much about the situation that everyone finds themselves in but overall, this film fails to reach the level that it tries to reach. Perhaps this just doesn’t age well enough and felt much more interesting during the days when the Cold War was at its peak in the 80’s.
MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – In preparation for his role, for about a year, lead actor Robin Williams studied Soviet customs and learned the Russian language. Reportedly, Williams spent five hours a day learning Russian and had learned to speak it well within a month. By the time of principal photography, Williams was at a proficiency level where he could carry out a conversation. William’s teacher was a Russian actor called David. (From IMDB)
Rating – BAFTA Worthy (5/10)
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DISAGREE with you 100%. Not sure when I saw this movie last – certainly less recently than you did – but I’ve seen it more times than you have and it holds up quite well. It is also one of the best performances of Robin Williams career and that’s saying something. I remember thinking at the time (and still do) that he should’ve been nominated for an Oscar. It was a better performance than at least 2 others nominated that year. Maybe because of the mix of comedy and drama (it was Paul Mazursky for crying out loud!) – it confused the actors branch – who’ve never been that adept at nominating comedy lead performances. The very same year – there was no nomination for Steve Martin for “All of Me”. The casting was a marvel – all the Russian actors – Elya Baskin, Saveily Kramarov, Aleksander Beniaminov as William’s grandfather (not counting Williams himself having learned Russian for his role), Ms. Alonzo (I thought they had serious chemistry together as immigrants from totally different cultures who shared being new to America and trying to assimilate), Cleavant Derricks, Alejandro Rey as his immigration lawyer. It’s a lovely, touching magical movie – with Williams sax playing, Russian speaking character an absolute standout performance.
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