Pocket Money

A lot of people had to walk that way, Jim.  Those long one hundred steps.

“What did I just watch?”  Sometimes that’s a good thing to say after a movie.  That dazed but pleased feeling.  That’s not what’s going on in my head right now.  More of along the lines of, “What was the point of that?”

Jim (Paul Newman) needs the money for alimony or something.  So, when Garrett (Strother Martin), a total smarm, offers him a job to get some cattle, he takes it.  Jim goes down to Mexico and meets up with his local buddy, Leonard (Lee Marvin), who’s just a little less noble of spirit than Jim.  They go get the cattle, they move the cattle, and they have to deal with squirmy Mr. Garrett.  Then…

Pocket Money (1972), directed by Stuart Rosenberg, is a weird movie.  It’s weird in plot, which is loose, in musical accompaniment, which alternated between Carly Simon and New Orleans jazz, and direction, which is occasionally serious and occasionally not.  Let me put another weirdness on you.  It’s (purportedly) a comedy and written by Terrence Malick.

If I knew about the Malick thing before I started watching, I would have done some exercises before hand.  I didn’t.  I thought it was going to be like The Sting (1973).  It wasn’t.  I assumed it was going to have an ending.  It didn’t.  All mistakes, but not all of them mine.

Problems.

Story.  Where are we going and why are we spending time here?  Is this movie about the cattle business or is it about these two guys?  They tried to do both and it hurt both sides of the movie.  The pacing of this story is similarly out of whack.  They go from place to place almost aimlessly and give no impression of whether they’re wasting money, time, or both or being smart, stupid, or both.

Characters.  These guys are a little dumb and I don’t know why they do certain things.  They go to see Garrett and scare him up a little.  They don’t get their money or the promise of it, but they leave.  “I’ve got some things to look into.”  But he didn’t have things to look into.  What’s going on?

According to IMDB, the tagline was “The two most memorable characters the West can never forget!”  Are you kidding?  These are not roles Newman and Marvin should look back on as even good moments in their careers.  I can’t even say it was a missed opportunity or botched potential.  I haven’t a clue where this movie could have been righted.

The aimlessness is partially explained by the Malick screenplay.  Malick likes aimlessness.  Let’s just capture the moment.  The real.  Well, that can work in a dram, but not in a comedy about two idiots.  And while I thought it was a comedy going in, I wasn’t projecting anything.  I’m not the one who put the music from the Zatarain’s commercial into the movie.

The thing about this movie is that I’m so flummoxed, I don’t know who to blame.  I can’t tell if the performances were bad.  I can’t rightly tell if the dialogue was bad.  I’m pretty sure the screenplay was bad.  The choice of music is dated, but that’s not really a criticism since they don’t build ’em all to last.

Maybe that’s it.  This is just something fun to pass the time.  Well, it wasn’t that much fun.

Looking over some of the reviews on IMDB, maybe I should have approached the movie as a farce.  It can’t be a parody or a satire because these people aren’t dealing with things warranting commentary.  No, it’s just farce.

But this kind of farce does nothing for me.  It doesn’t work with puns, funny misunderstandings, or awkwardness.  It doesn’t even have the decency to have sight gags.  No, it just paved the way for the gagless farce.  That territory has been more than covered by Cheech & Chong.  Two idiots without a straight man.  Which, I think, means that it sucks.

Sorry, Paul.  I love you, man.  And you too Marvin.  But guys, what are you doing?

About Prof. Ratigan

A semi-lawyer and amateur enthusiast.
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