Written by / 2/23/2016 / No comments / , , ,

NEIL DIAMOND LOUNGES AROUND IN THE JAZZ SINGER

year: 1980
To say the man some consider the greatest actor of all time, Lawrence Olivier, is a worse actor than crooner Neil Diamond is a matter of specifics…

In this particular case, THE JAZZ SINGER, a maligned 1980 remake of the Al Jolson classic providing Diamond a showcase, or in this case, a pseudo biopic that’s really an outright infomercial for his already established lounge-pop (not one bit jazz) music persona, Diamond’s self-aware inexperience is easier to take than Oliver’s immensely annoying overacting as we begin with a clever twist on the now infamous original JAZZ SINGER Al Jolson blackface as Diamond’s Yussel Rabinovitch, changed to Jess Robin, goes undercover as a black singer, along with fellow black background vocalists, performing at a Harlem nightclub...

Then cutting to Robin’s mundane life as the son of an intense Jewish cantor, who, unlike his stubborn father, knows his life has another path… And with a voice like Diamond, that’s a given. The suspense of whether Jess will make it in Show Business equals Mohammad Ali playing himself in THE GREATEST: watching an iconic superstar on the big screen, struggling for fame within their own field of expertise while lacking the intensity, youth and strength that made it possible in the first place, is like a millionaire buying a lottery ticket, and winning.

Neil Diamond
On the romantic side, Jess is married to a discontented Jewish woman who doesn’t want her husband to travel from New York to L.A. for a chance at becoming a musician. Enter Lucie Arnez as his agent and love interest. Made during the end of the seventies, Lucy’s Molly embodies that era’s independently quirky woman, in spades — Annie Hall without the hangups. But she's much too endearing as the "perfect girl" for their rushed romance to really mean something. Meanwhile, both have the chemistry of kissing cousins with chapped lips...

CampValue: ***1/2
With her help, in a matter of a few gigs, Diamond’s Robin crosses over, and there aren’t many rungs to climb. When he sings his own songs he’s got the audience in the bag since the songs, while not for everyone, are downright catchy, memorable and optimistic...

But when the overacting Olivier pays a moody visit, throwing a tantrum as if his MARATHON MAN dentist conformed to Judaism, pulling nerves instead of teeth, the movie has its one and only obstacle for our crooning hero: Jess hitchhikes across America, grows a beard, chain smokes cigarettes, avoiding fame at all costs… but he can’t hide forever…

Neil’s lethargic acting is self aware and totally comfortable at the same time – too much of the latter for the first to fully embrace the dramatic elements, which there are very few. This is all about Diamond showcasing some new catchy tunes, including HELLO AGAIN HELLO, THEY COME TO AMERICA and LOVE ON THE ROCKS. And with an experienced director like Richard Fleischer, and a script that flows like a breezy TV movie of the week, THE JAZZ SINGER is a worthwhile guilty pleasure, and beyond.
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