80s US Bracket: Modern Romance (1981)

The first film in my first match-up in the second round of the 80s US Bracket leaves me pretty, pretty flat!

Written By: Albert Brooks & Monica Mcgowan Johnson
Directed By: Albert Brooks

I’ve never adhered to the theory that you have to like the characters, or protagonist, in a film in order to like said film. I don’t get that theory because cinema is filled with unlikeable characters, and protagonists, who I loved spending time with. I don’t need to like the characters on my screen, I just need to want to spend time with them. I didn’t want to spend one minute with Albert Brooks’ Robert Cole, let alone a smidgen over an hour and a half with this character. I found him irritating and abrasive, in a bad way mind you, from the get go. I didn’t need to like Cole, but I needed to want to spend time with him and I wanted to run for this hills to get away from him and find someone else to hang out with.

Another problem I had with Modern Romance was that I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a Woody Allen film without Allen behind the helm or in the starring role. On the off chance that I wasn’t going crazy I went and read fellow Filmspotter GothamCity151’s first round verdict in favor of Modern Romance. He too felt the Allen connection, although he took it a step further than me by drawing a direct correlation between Modern Romance and Allen’s Annie Hall. I didn’t get any specific Allen movie feel from Modern Romance, but I did get a general impression that Modern Romance was a film that would have been much better with Allen involved in someway. As it is, Modern Romance doesn’t feel like it’s own work, it feels like a low rent imitation of a Woody Allen film, and that is certainly not something for the film to hang its hat on.

If you manage to get past the low rent Allen connection and Brooks’ lead character sending you running for the hills, you are left with a decidedly unfunny film. Modern Romance is supposed to be funny, I think that is obvious in Brooks’ neurotic delivery as well as the stops and beats found throughout the film. I chuckled once, maybe twice, but even those were slight chuckles, directed mainly at the always awesome Bob Einstein, or as most should know him Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhouser from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Outside of his attempts to sell Brooks various articles of running apparel and equipment I found myself sitting in a calm manner as opposed to ever laughing with or at Modern Romance.

A group of characters I didn’t want to spend time with, a low rent Woody Allen vibe and finally an unfunny romantic comedy, or a romantic comedy without the romance since that applies as well, adds up to a film that I didn’t enjoy. At the very least I want to enjoy the films I watch, I don’t always need some sort of deeper meaning or amazing camerawork or to be watching one of the greatest movies ever made. Enjoyment is almost always enough for me, and on that level I didn’t enjoy Modern Romance a bit and that is its greatest sin of all.




9 responses to “80s US Bracket: Modern Romance (1981)

  1. I’m not a fan of Albert Brooks’ films though I did like Mother and Lost in America. This one was OK but not very memorable except the scene where he’s driving his girlfriend with Michael Jackson playing in the background. I also remembered a joke referring to Heaven’s Gate in that film where they were cutting the short version. That must’ve been horrible.

  2. Wow. Comedy is really something isn’t it. I thought this was one of the best comedies in the last couple of decades. Woody Allen NEVER was willing to make a character this abusive and the fact is I had a roommate that was this EXACT person, so I know how accurate it is. I thought the quaalude scene was maybe the best long comedy take I have ever seen. I saw this movie twenty some years ago and can still quote lines. “you saved the picture.” Each to his own I guess. I would out this in my all time favorite ten.

  3. Steve, I did like the Jackson scene, that was one non-Super Dave scene where I chuckled.

    Mark, yep, comedy is something, it’s something that is so subjective that people will never ever agree on it, at least on the whole. I view film as a 100% subjective medium, but within that subjective shell comedy is the most subjective of all. One man’s laugh is another man’s blank stare, and vice-versa.

  4. But unlike Allen Brooks is fuckable.

  5. the fact that you don’t think the fantastic Modern Romance is funny means that I would not want to spend one second with someone as clueless, vacuous and humorless as you.

  6. By the way Mr Would Be Film Reviewer, apparantly none other than Stanley Kubrick called Brooks after he saw this movie and told him it was one of the most perfect movies ever done. But, I bet you probably think Kubrick was a hack too……… :roll

  7. Kris – That’s not something I’m taking into consideration, I don’t think. 🙂

    George – Ah yes, the always tired, “you didn’t like something I liked so your opinion is invalid” argument, way to really bring it George!

    Seriously though, I didn’t like the movie, you did, why lose sleep over that fact? Does everyone in the world have to like all the same movies you do? Is the only comedy that exists that which you find funny? You’re on a slippery slope my friend, a slippery slope that leads to no one wanting to talk film with you because you present your opinion as the infallible truth.

    And, Mr. Kubrick can love Mr. Brooks’ film as much as he wanted to, he could have loved it more than life itself and that would have been fine. That’s the funny thing about the subjectivity of film, it entitles everyone to an opinion and allows for a wide variety of takes on any given film. I’m open to that sort of film world, I think it is the life blood of film discussion. How about you George, or is that much freedom of opinion and open discussion too much for your one track and one opinion mind to handle?

  8. Hey Thompson, sorry, I had a long nap. Are you done yet? Oh, you are? Well, allow me to retort.

    You presented YOUR review as if you are the be all and end all of movie critics. Your pomposity is hilarious. The real problem is you have no sense of humor. Why not just admit it—some of this humor is so subtle it flew right over your head. Albert Brooks is an acquired taste and not for everyone, I admit it. A great steak and a good wine are not for everyone too. Its ok to admit you like cheeseburgers and soda. Nothing wrong with that. Just don’t say something is bad because your tastes aren’t fully developed enough to appreciate something.

  9. I presented my review exactly as it should be presented, as an offering of my opinions on the film. Like I said, everyone has an opinion, and in no way do you have to agree with my opinion.

    Appreciation is an interesting notion. I mean, someone can eat pigeon and not appreciate the way it tastes. That does not mean that they are then prohibited from saying that the pigeon was bad. Not only did I not appreciate Mr. Brooks’ comedy, but I found it bad and not funny. That’s an opinion, and it’s different than yours, I suggest you develop thicker skin and get used to people not liking, or appreciating, everything that you like.

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