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Legacy Review

Nothing in Common (1986)

Nothing in Common is a head-spinningly uneven film. It pairs some legitimately great performances and compelling ideas with a total dud of a script. What a waste.

The film is probably best remembered as the moment that Hollywood realized that Tom Hanks is more than a boyish comedian, but in fact a dynamic superstar capable of really ambitious and dramatic material. Despite the poster, this is no Odd Couple yuk-fest. It’s a layered dramedy about a yuppie son and his estranged parents. Hanks manages to capture both the corporate satire and the emotional relationship drama with effortless pivots in between. It’s a great performance, never too showy, and always a portrait of believable person.

But what the film really should be remembered for is Jackie Gleason’s performance, his last ever. He plays to perfection the crotchety, out-of-touch father facing the tail end of his emotionally bankrupt life. I choked up more than once during Gleason’s scenes (though that brief shot of his diseased foot made me sick to my stomach).

With two great performances capturing such perfect energy, this really should have been something special. We get whiffs of that greatness: an elegy to the Greatest Generation as Gen X, ever horny and impatient, comes of age, finding some bridge between them.

Unfortunately, the script is a big mess of half-baked conflicts and characters. It’s not atrociously bad so much as a meandering nothing. We’re never given a reason to care whether Hanks’s character David wins his big account; then a brewing love triangle simply vanishes; and then the movie abruptly stops more than it ends.

Garry Marshall is more fascinated with the social dynamics of a young, ambitious executive than any emotional turmoil of generational conflict. His camera glides through the office space, giving the corporate scenes some up-tempo energy totally missing in the script. Meanwhile, the charged Gleason-Hanks interactions are take place in mostly drab shots, lifeless where the film should pop.

It all adds up to a thorny mess of a movie. There’s intermittent greatness here, but it’s much more misfire than masterpiece.

Is It Good?

Nearly Good (4/8)

Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.


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