- Movie Rating -

Something Short of Paradise (1979)

| October 5, 1979

You know, it’s funny, a few minutes ago I wrote a review of And Justice For All in which I noted that I tend to dislike movies in which you can clearly see the movie that it is trying to imitate.  If that film was trying to borrow interest for Network and Cuckoo’s Nest, this film blatantly tries to borrow interest from Annie Hall.  Why imitate?  Make your own damned movie!

Or, at least, if you’re going to borrow elements from a better movie, borrow the best elements.  Something Short of Paradise takes the basic framework of Annie Hall – two people experience the complications of modern romance – and plugs it into a script that barely rises above the level of a TV sitcom.  They get in situations that no human being would get into, and they have cutesy, jokey dialogue that sounds weird without a laugh track.

But the worst offense is that the movie employs two very good actors in roles that aren’t worth their time.  David Steinberg shows none of the brilliance of his stand-up comedy in the role of Harris Sloane, the manager of an arthouse cinema who meets Madeline Ross (Susan Sarandon) a reporter with aspirations of being a novelist.  They meet-cute through friends, then break-up-cute because she has commitment issues.  They reunite-cute when his theater hosts a retrospective of the work of a French actor that she needs to interview.

The Annie Hall roles are in place here; he’s a whiny New York Jew and she’s a waspy liberated gentile.  They drive each other crazy because neither can find a functional place in a relationship.  Worse. the movie never lets them find a common ground.  They’re always analyzing and strategizing the relationship without ever really talking to each other about it.  They seem to be working out a blueprint for want but there is never time for the to be a couple.

The pieces of a romantic comedy are here, but it’s all so labored maybe because the writer, Fred Barron, provides jokes and situations without a human element.  His dialogue contains all of those cutesy little romantic comedy banter stuff in which you can see the actors rehearing it.  It’s a colorful ballet without the spontaneity of life.  It all feels so written, so manufactured, so artificial.  Something Short of Paradise is something short of a movie.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized