Written by / 7/30/2023 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

PAUL LE MAT DRIVES JONATHAN DEMME'S 'MELVIN AND HOWARD'

Michal Hendrych's artwork for MELVIN AND HOWARD Year: 1980 Rating: ****1/2

Quirky biopic based on the truth as told by a liar, in this case Melvin Dummar played by AMERICAN GRAFFITI hot-rod hotshot Paul Le Mat, again behind the wheel in the important first act consisting of twenty-minutes with Jason Robards portraying the Howard of MELVIN AND HOWARD — as in the infamously reclusive billionaire Hughes, who Dummar claimed left $150M in his will...

As the then low-budget director Jonathan Demme tells the dodgy tale as if it were entirely legitimate, after Hughes crashes a motorcycle and, partially injured with the ragged, zombie-pale hangdog  countenance, is picked up and taken by overnight driver Dummar to "his hotel" in Las Vegas — both eventually (and in Hughes' case reluctantly) sharing favorite songs as Robards makes terrific use of the short yet important screen-time... 

Jason Robards and Paul Le Mat in MELVIN AND HOWARD

Ultimately a frame-story as, during a quick epilogue, Howard takes the wheel, closing a critically-acclaimed yet underrated indie, primarily centered on the flakiest of flaky American dreamers, thus providing La Mat — tragically underused since his GRAFFITI breakthrough — a wonderfully grounded, down-home performance... 

Practically a non-performance, outshined only by Best Supporting Oscar-winning Mary Steenburgen as his put-upon yet optimistic wife... yet it's his own ongoing stubborn-streak that makes her dramatic reactions really matter  — while their shared bond in subtly compelling pre-teen daughter Elizabeth Cheshire keeps them more together than apart...

Paul Le Mat in MELVIN AND HOWARD

Going from rural-dwelling, job-after-job, perpetually repossessed rags to fleeting game-show riches (before Dummar marries second wife Pamela Reed) to that possible multi-million payout, the third act finally unburies the controversial news-story lead, and, while Demme makes Hughes's windfall will seem as genuine as the rudimentary ride that had supposedly caused it, the only real antagonist is a judge calling our flighty unreliable narrator a liar... 

Overall providing the audience Dummar's narrowed version of an underdog's palpable reverie, actually more about smiling through life's mundane struggles than the (probable) scheme to financially rise above and beyond them.  

Elizabeth Cheshire and the real Melvin Dummar in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Paul Le Mat with Mary Steenburgen in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire and Mary Steenburgen in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire and Mary Steenburgen in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire and Mary Steenburgen in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Underused Gloria Grahame and daughter Mary Steenburgen in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Paul Le Mat in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire and Mary Steenburgen in MELVIN AND HOWARD with Paul Le Mat
Pamela Reed as Dummar's second wife in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire and Mary Steenburgen in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Mary Steenburgen in MELVIN AND HOWARD with Paul Le Mat
Elizabeth Cheshire in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Charlene Holt in MELVIN AND HOWARD with Paul Le Mat
Elizabeth Cheshire in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire in MELVIN AND HOWARD with Mary Steenburgen
Paul Le Mat in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire in MELVIN AND HOWARD with Paul Le Mat
Blonde Cult starlet Cheryl Smith (Laserblast) in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Hughes's phantom will-giving Charles Napier in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Work buddy Michael J. Pollard and Paul Le Mat in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire and Paul Le Mat in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Dabney Coleman and Paul Le Mat in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Denise Galik with Mary Steenburgen in MELVIN AND HOWARD
Elizabeth Cheshire, Michael J. Pollard, Paul Le Mat and Mary Steenburgen in Melvin & Howard
Elizabeth Cheshire in MELVIN AND HOWARD

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