Running On Empty (1988) Blind Spot Review

Running On Empty (1988)

Directed by Sidney Lumet

Starring: Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch, River Phoenix, Martha Plimpton, Steven Hill

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The eldest son of a fugitive family comes of age and wants to live a life of his own.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Running On Empty:

11. Eyes Without A Face – 7/10
10. An Education – 7/10
9. Phenomena – 7/10
8. Magic – 7/10
7. Summer Wars – 7/10
6. True Romance – 7/10
5. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
4. Running On Empty – 7.5/10
3. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
2. Battle Royale – 8/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

This was a slight cheat for my Blind Spot list as I think I saw at least part of this film at the time but didn’t remember it. I’m not sure why I never fully explored it as I absolutely loved River Phoenix and I was completely & utterly obsessed with Stand By Me. That remains my most-watched movie to this day due to the multiple times I watched it at the age of 13/14. And, no, I’m still not over River’s death! You know how some of you younger bloggers feel about Heath Ledger?? River was the Heath of my generation. So damn talented… What a sad loss for the acting world – River was already fantastic at such a young age.

So, I’ll start with River’s performance in Running On Empty. He’s the true star of the film & his role won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (although I’d call it a lead role). I still often wonder what he’d be like today, at the age of 46, and how many Oscars he’d have (he’d most certainly have some). He’d be another Leonardo DiCaprio. Yep – there are some damn fine actors from my generation! Anyway, he was great playing a boy of (17?) in this film and he had just the right mix of maturity yet boyish playfulness. I sometimes get annoyed when teenagers are too mature in films – it’s not believable.

So, yeah – River is the best thing about this movie but there are strong performances from everyone involved. Christine Lahti is probably the most moving as a mother who knows she may need to let her son go in order to give him a chance to live a normal life. Judd Hirsch plays the father who insists that the family will always stay together, on the run, no matter what. And Martha Plimpton plays a girl who, along with the opportunity to go to a prestigious college, makes River’s character long to lead a normal life instead of always having to move from place to place & assume new identities every time his fugitive parents are in danger of being discovered. They’re a very close-knit family and you can’t help but want them to be able to somehow live happily ever after despite the mistakes the parents made in the past (they’re ex-hippies who bombed a napalm laboratory, seriously injuring a janitor who wasn’t meant to be there).

I think this is a sadly overlooked Sidney Lumet film as he’s done so many absolute classics (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, etc). It’s a shame as Running On Empty is a very good film with moving performances (especially from River – it’s amazing that I somehow missed out on this one as a fan of his). It has, admittedly, maybe not dated all that well in the same way a lot of 80’s films haven’t so it won’t necessarily be one that a younger generation will go for. If you grew up on 80’s films, however, this is a must-see that I think plenty of people didn’t see. I’m not sure why it didn’t get more attention but I’m glad that River Phoenix at least got an Oscar nomination. And I’m glad I finally took the time to watch it! And to once again have him break my heart… River did 80’s coming-of-age dramas perfectly.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**Yes, this Jackson Browne song was in my head the whole time. No, it’s not in the movie. Hmm – I should add this movie to my list of My Top Ten Movies With Song Title Titles! FYI – Stand By Me was number one on that list…

A Beautiful Mind (2001) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

IMG_7625.JPG

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from John of 501 Must See Movies Project . He also reviewed Amadeus HERE and Platoon HERE. Thanks for the reviews, John! ūüôā Now let’s hear his thoughts on A Beautiful Mind, IMDB rank 198 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

IMG_7594.JPG

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been.”

A Beautiful Mind explores the life of John Nash (Crowe), Nobel Prize winning mathematician.  Beginning with his graduate studies at Princeton, Nash discovers a new concept of governing dynamics, the Nash Equilibrium.  Following Princeton, Nash works at a research lab at MIT doing work for the Pentagon and teaching on the side.  He meets Alicia (Connelly), one of his students, and the two fall in love.  He is also approached by William Parcher (Harris) to do classified work in decoding a Soviet attack on America.

However, not everything is as it appears.

Based on the book of the same name by Sylvia¬†Nasar,¬†A Beautiful Mind¬†is a film that balances a number of movie genres. ¬†It’s got drama,mystery, romance, a little bit of comedy. ¬†The various elements of the film make it insightful, suspenseful, and entertaining on a number of levels.

From a visual perspective, a lot goes on in¬†A Beautiful Mind. ¬†Some of the film’s early scenes, specifically at Princeton, have an older look to them. ¬†I like when a director can add little elements like that. ¬†It helps in contrasting the different time periods throughout the film. ¬†They also do good with showing Nash’s perspective as he sees the various connections and patterns in the math.

IMG_7598.JPG

Though some of the character’s¬†mannerisms¬†were annoying to me, Russell Crowe does a great job of bringing John Nash to life. ¬†I’m probably nitpicking more¬†than anything else. ¬†He does well with portraying the paranoid genius who was given “two helping of brain but only a half a helping of heart.” ¬†The real life John Nash visited the set, and Crowe notices some of his tendencies, hand movements, and things of the sort, and incorporated them into his performance.

A Beautiful Mind¬†was filmed almost entirely chronologically, and I think that helped Crowe’s performance as he became Nash and progressed naturally through the various stages of life portrayed in the film.

Jennifer Connelly, wow, what a performance is all I can say. ¬†Even though she doesn’t command every scene she’s in, she gives a strong performance and more than holds her own. ¬†From the beginning of their love story through the pain and anguish later on, her portrayal of Alicia Nash is believable and genuine. ¬†As I’ve looked at some of the other people considered for her role and Crowe’s, I know Ron Howard made the right call with those two.

IMG_7596.JPG

Paul¬†Bettany¬†is an interesting character to say the least. ¬†Having¬†portrayed Geoffrey Chaucer in¬†A Knight’s Tale,¬†an entertaining role,¬†Bettany¬†demonstrated his ability to be a sort of classical funnyman in¬†A Beautiful Mind. ¬†Though a lot of his performance has the comedic undertone, he has nuggets of truth and deep insight throughout the film. ¬†Ed Harris also gives a decent performance. ¬†He excels in the serious no-nonsense roles like¬†Parcher. ¬†I don’t know if I would call him a typecast character, but his most memorable performances are ones like this one.

This is a film I’d recommend seeing twice before forming an opinion about it. ¬†I saw this one twice in the theaters: the first time I hated it, the second time I loved it. ¬†Knowing the major plot twist gives perspective and a different understanding to the first half of the film. ¬†¬†Akiva¬†Goldsman, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer created the world through Nash’s perspective, so the audience experiences the major twist at the same time Nash does. ¬†I remember being very confused the first time I saw it, hence not liking it.

IMG_7597.JPG
“I need to believe, that something extraordinary is possible.”

It’s been probably about a decade since I’ve watched¬†A Beautiful Mind.¬† Having a chance to re-visit it for me was enjoyable and a reminder of how great¬†A Beautiful Mind¬†is. ¬†Russell Crowe brings John Nash’s story to life, has great on-screen chemistry with Ed Harris, Paul¬†Bettany, and most importantly Jennifer Connelly. ¬†Ron Howard has created a great film, one certainly deserving of the Best Picture Oscar. ¬†See this one twice if you haven’t seen it yet.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.