Archive for the ‘Eric Roberts’ Tag

The Coca-Cola Kid (1985)   3 comments

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Becker (Eric Roberts), a marketing genius, travels to Sydney from the United States to boost sales of Coca-Cola in Australia.  He’s a hired gun, of sorts, sent by Coca-Cola headquarters to drum up business. The laid-back executives at the Sydney office don’t know what to make of him, but are told by the brass, “Don’t try to understand him. Just know that he doubles and triples sales.” Staff in the Sydney branch decide, wisely, to leave him alone. Given free rein, Becker looks for weaknesses in the Aussie market. A distribution map of the country shows a glaring hole in Coke sales.  Rural Anderson Valley sells no Coke at all. Becker heads to the region to find out why. In Anderson Valley, Becker meets T. George McDowell (Bill Kerr), an autocratic businessman who makes his own brand of soft drinks and controls the soda market there.

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The tutti-frutti is made of wombats.

T. George’s passion and entrepreneurship impress Becker. His old-fashioned, but well-run factory turns out delicious products and employs many of the town’s residents. Still, even T. George is no match for the Coca-Cola machine.  The writing’s on the wall. Becker wants to bring in Coke and squeeze T. George out of his own territory.

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Stand up, Matilda’s waltzing.

The Coca-Cola Kid has a simple plot and could take place in Australia or even rural Mississippi or Maine if it stuck with the ‘just the facts, ma’am’ approach. It’d also be an average film and be over in thirty-five minutes. What takes it to the next level are the characters and tangential stories Frank Moorhouse weaves into the screenplay. One involves an aboriginal didgeridoo player, Mr. Joe (Steve Dodd) and other local musicians; another, a hotel bellman (David Slingsby), in a subversive political organization who mistakes Becker for a CIA agent. A third story revolves around Terri (Greta Scacchi), Becker’s secretary in Sydney and her chaotic home life and history.

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Tonight on Kris Kringle Yoga…

You’ll see familiar faces in The Coca-Cola Kid. Some Australian ‘that guys’ make appearances along with musicians Ricky Fataar and Tim Finn.

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Ricky Fataar and Steve Dodd in the studio

Finn also wrote the original songs and the faux Coke ad which features Mr. Joe on the didgeridoo. It’s a catchy tune.  Bill Kerr was a popular and well-known Australian actor and I noticed at least two cast members from The Road Warrior.  Rebecca Smart plays the precocious DMZ beautifully. Greta Scacchi’s role is not as fleshed-out as it could be, but she does a nice job with it as a flaky working mom with a complicated backstory. She and Roberts have great chemistry. Finally, Eric Roberts, plays Becker as a perfectionist who sees Coca-Cola as an extension of the Unites States and espouses its virtues with evangelical zeal.  He’s thrown himself into his work and eschewed a personal life.

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Brown and bubbly

He’s not like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross though. He has a tender heart and Roberts has the acting chops for it. In the 1980s, Eric Roberts made some terrific films.  Star 80, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Runaway Train, and The Coca-Cola Kid all show his talent and range.

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Becker in a vulnerable moment

During Becker’s mission, he meets a string of quirky, unpredictable characters which bring to mind the Bill Forsyth films Local Hero and Comfort and Joy.  As I thought more about it, I realized one of the offbeat players in The Coca-Cola Kid is Australia itself. Director, Dusan Makavejev lets the camera linger on the scenery as well as the actors. Like Local Hero, the place has a personality. It’s foreign to Becker. Everyone speaks English, but they all function so differently from the businessmen Becker deals with that it throws him. His neat, orderly world changes and it hits him hard. He generally rolls in, sizes up the competition, makes changes, and jets home to Atlanta to await his next assignment. He doesn’t get involved in the private lives of his employees. He doesn’t meet odd people.  He doesn’t get excited or upset. He does his job, then leaves. The funky wonderfulness of Australia and its people gets to him. It got to me too. I saw The Coca-Cola Kid when it came out in 1985 and I hoped Australia was like this.  Maybe it never was, but I like it anyway.

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The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)   6 comments

“Horses ain’t like people, man. They can’t make themselves better than they’re born.”

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Charlie (Mickey Rourke) puts the finishing touches on his ensemble as Frank Sinatra croons Summer Wind in the background. Like the dressing scene in American Gigolo (1980), this glimpse into Charlie’s pre-work routine gives us some insight into his character. Unlike Gere in Gigolo, Charlie travels in working class circles, but yearns for something more. He manages a restaurant in a predominantly Italian New York City neighborhood and dreams of owning his own place. His ne’er-do-well cousin Paulie (Eric Roberts) works as a waiter in the restaurant and from the start we see what an irresponsible man-child he is. After Paulie steals from the restaurant, the owner fires him and Charlie. Desperate for money to support his ex-wife and son and to pay the rent, Charlie agrees to help with the burglary of a payroll office. They’ll stroll into a closed office building, Barney (Kenneth McMillan) a clock repairman and small time thief will open the safe, and the three men will walk out $50,000 richer. Easy, right? A side story involving crooked cops, local wise guys, and dirty money complicates their simple caper and the rest of the film shows us the strength of Charlie and Paulie’s friendship.

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The break-in and its aftermath don’t drive The Pope of Greenwich Village though. The characters do. Filled with actors like Val Avery, Tony Musante, M. Emmet Walsh, and Burt Young, the film has a real neighborhood bar look to it. Performances by Geraldine Page and Jack Kehoe as a mother and son stand out. The Academy nominated Page for an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in this film, but she lost out to Peggy Ashcroft for A Passage to India. All I can say is Ashcroft must have been awesome because Page hits it out of the park. I couldn’t take my eyes off her boozy, chain-smoking mother or make a sound for fear of missing a single word she spoke.

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Another nomination?

All the characters have great lines. Vincent Patrick wrote the novel and screenplay and has a real feel for his characters. An exchange between Paulie and his father played by Philip Bosco has the dad telling his son about a relative who is successful. He has a wife and kids and a home. Paulie counters with, “Pop, he shines his own shoes.” When his dad asks Paulie what success means to him, he says “I took 500 from shylocks, Pop, to see Sinatra at the Garden. Sat two seats away from Tony Bennett. That’s success, Pop.” Those few lines speak volumes about Paulie. Charlie has some great things to say too. When Charlie’s girlfriend Daryl Hannah gets fed up with Paulie’s antics she asks, “When are you going to outgrow him, Charlie?” Charlie answers, “Diane, maybe WASPS outgrow people. Italians outgrow clothes, not people.”

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Why am I in this film? Oh right.

Originally, The Pope of Greenwich Village had Robert DeNiro cast as Charlie and Al Pacino as Paulie with Michael Cimino directing. Delays in the shooting schedule forced Cimino to drop out so DeNiro and Pacino followed. Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke, The Laughing Policeman) directed and does a nice job of giving us the feel of the neighborhood and the people who live there. Music by Dave Grusin lets you know this is a film from the 1980s, but the real reasons you watch this film are the performances by Rourke and Roberts. Rourke showed great promise in Barry Levinson’s Diner (1982) and Roberts impressed critics with his performance in Star 80 (1983). Together they have great chemistry. Scenes with the two cousins walking arm in arm through the neighborhood or swaying to a Sinatra song while taking over a kids’ stickball game look natural. You believe they grew up together. I recommend this film. It falls short in showing you Charlie’s one foot in each world indecision, but as a character study full of lovely, small performances, it succeeds. Look for a fun bit of business with a tow-happy policeman and a horse physic and Mink DeVille’s pretty song Just to Walk That Little Girl Home.

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I wrote this piece for the 1984-a-Thon hosted by forgottenfilmcast.wordpress.com on twitter @ForgottenFilmz
Check out his blog and the other films reviewed for this blogathon.

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30 Years On: 1984 a Great Year for Movies

A Review of one of the Great Years in American Cinema

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