There are some movies that come to mind and it takes everything that I can not to smirk. So I give in and I smirk.
This can be awkward when you’re in a dreary meeting at work, lose consciousness, and then smirk. People begin to wonder if you’re not taking things seriously.
You can’t just say, “No, really, I was just thinking about ‘The Freshman‘.”
Now with a title–and response–like that, people start to wonder if they need to call the authorities and have them check in on you.
I can’t help but smirk and sometimes giggle when I think about this absolute, underrated, perfect comedy from 1990.
For starters, it has one of my huge 80s man crushes in it in Matthew Broderick. Add Bruno Kirby, Penelope Ann Miller in one of her earliest roles, and who makes better facial expressions when they know the heats on than Jon Polito. If you’re unfamiliar with Jon (we’re close, it’s a thing) you should check him out in any Coen Brothers movie Following “Miller’s Crossing“ circa 1990. He is a regular of theirs and he can play uncomfortably comedic and a ruthless villain within the same scene; and we buy it. He’s very underrated.
Broderick is perfect casting for this role. He is one of the greatest lovable loser actors of all time. I have mentioned “WarGames‘” David and “Ladyhawke‘s” Gaston, there is also Eugene Morris Jerome from “Biloxi Blues“ and Clark Kellogg from “The Freshman” is no different. With slapstick, it can be very easy to look fake or forced. Broderick as Clark makes it look seamless and true.
Did I forget to mention Brando? WOW. Yes. I just did that. I also forgot to mention that he “unintentionally” intentionally reprises his role as Don Vito Corleone in his Carmine Sabatini.
It’s only fair that one make a disclaimer here. If you have not seen or are not a decent sized fan of the “Godfather” films; you won’t get a lot of the jokes. That might be why so many people I have talked to over the years either love (deeply I might add) or dislike this movie. It’s hard to enjoy this fresh with no perspective of the “Godfather” films as so much of that character (Don Vito) is important to this story.
People ask me often about my favorite actors. It is an unfair question as there are so many. Brando is in the top five easy. His influence is too deep not to include him on such a list. He proves it here for me with a rare comedic turn in this film.
For those of you that are familiar with my blog, you know how important comedy is to me as a genre. It is the one I share the deepest respect for. Drama comes with its challenges, but we can all agree that death from a character we’ve grown to love is dramatic. There are so many different variations of comedy out there that being able to get one of them right that a large group of people enjoy is quite a feat. Mel Brooks and Woody Allen are two very different kind of directors and comedians. Both funny. Both work. Completely different. Some people like Brooks, some prefer Allen, some don’t like either, some like both…where am I going here? Brando is known for his deep seriousness within each of his dramatic characters. He would develop amazing backstories that would explain why the character might react in this way and use it. It’s enough to drive directors crazy, which he was known for, but it also worked and brought forth some of the most passionate performances one could have in a lifetime. He then turned around and made this witty comedic play on one of his most famous roles and hit the right notes. Every moment that he is on screen, he understands exactly the impact he has to make with his humor, and gives it just the right amount.
Yes. I’m smirking thinking about him as I write this.
If you haven’t seen the first two “Godfather” pictures that’s a shame. Not just for the simple fact that they are “classic” movies by every definition. I feel sorry for you in that you won’t be able to enjoy such a great comedy on each level awarded. Yes, you can watch this movie fresh and still have a good laugh and enjoy a very well told story (it’s not just funny, the plot is clever as well); but there is a cloud of underlying winking from Brando, Broderick, and the rest of the players that you will miss out on.