80s US Bracket: Pennies From Heaven (1981)

The first film in my second match-up in the first round of the 80s US Bracket and no, this didn’t make me want to rediscover God!

Written By: Dennis Potter
Directed By: Herbert Ross

I find music to be far more subjective than film, simply because for me music can be and often is even more of an emotional reaction product than film. Musicals are much the same, because so much of their focus is on the music it often doesn’t matter whether a film is well made in every way, your emotional reaction guides your feelings on said film. Pennies From Heaven takes this even a step further by modifying its musical aesthetic to the point where it is a take it or leave it situation. From the moment Steve Martin started “singing” I fell into the latter category and I never stopped wanting to leave Pennies From Heaven behind.

Going back to the idea of music and emotion for a second, I have very strong feelings on music and what it means to me. That isn’t to say that I am stuck in my ways, simply that I feel very strongly about music and the affect it can have on people, particularly this guy. The best kind of music leaves me feeling like something has been put into my soul, a thought, an idea, a feeling, whatever that “something” may be, there is definitely a new entry in my soul cistern. Conversely the worst kind of music is the kind that leaves me feeling empty or flat, the music that doesn’t move me or involve me in any fashion. Before I go any further let me reveal what this has to do with Pennies From Heaven, it left me very, very empty. The music was so produced that it failed to do anything for me time after time, to the point where near the middle of the movie the musical numbers were like another slap in the face after the continuous slaps from the woefully ridiculous and underdeveloped story.

Before I wrap this up, one small thing that really, really bugged me, I found Pennies From Heaven to be terribly misogynistic. I usually don’t like to point that out in a film because if anyone wants to they can find misogyny in any film. However, with Pennies From Heaven I feel the need to point out just how misogynistic it was. Steve Martin’s character is the main offender, the camera often tries to paint him in a “oh man, his life sucks, feel sorry for him” light, but it does this by portraying him as a hypocrite and a cheater while portraying his women as a pair of idiots. I know a certain someone who would have a field day with the misogyny in Pennies From Heaven, but I am not that guy.

I don’t think I want to go on any longer with this review, it seems pretty pointless to me. I don’t like being pessimistic or a Debbie Downer, and if I were to write my usual length review for Pennies From Heaven that’s all you would get, negative comment after negative comment. Hey, wait, I forgot, the Christopher Walken tap dance sequence is an epic win. It’s Walken with an awesome ‘stache tap dancing like a crazy fool, you can’t beat that, you just can’t. But that’s all Pennies From Heaven has going for it, as I was alternately bored and disgusted with the rest of the picture and more than happy when the end credits finally came along. If you are ever going to take my word on anything, I beg and plead that you listen to me now, avoid Pennies From Heaven, don’t even give it the time of the day, your life will be better for it.




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