The Lonely Guy
Starring: Steve Martin, Charles Grodin, Judith Ivey
Directed by: Arthur Hiller
A comedy is supposed to be funny. Despite a decent effort by director Arthur Miller, The Lonely Guy‘s poor story and dialogue make for a poor movie. The story of a born loser could be clever and amusing, but this movie often goes the cheap route, like making too many unfunny jokes about suicide. Mix that with unlikable characters and you’ve got the recipe for a dud of a movie.
Larry Hubbard (Steve Martin) can’t catch a break. He’s stuck in a dead-end job and finds out that his girlfriend is cheating on him. His new friend, Warren (Charles Grodin) is more pathetic than Larry and appears to be pulling Larry towards a dark hole of despair. Things appear to look up for Larry when meets Iris (Judith Ivey) and he feels they have chemistry. However, she gets cold feet and ends the relationship.
With all the things that are going on, Larry decides to write a book dedicated to all the lonely guys out there. It becomes a bestseller and Larry is on top of the world. He tries to rekindle his relationship with Iris, but she leaves him again for Jack (Steve Lawrence). Larry’s life spirals downwards and he sees no end to his depression.
There are few positive things to say about this film. When you have a poor film, you can point to poor acting, directing, or editing and say the sum of all parts make for an awful movie. That’s not the case here. If it weren’t for the script and subject material, you couldn’t say this was a badly made movie. The acting, while not noteworthy, is perfectly acceptable. The weakest performance is Grodin’s, although Hiller seems to do a decent job masking Grodin’s wooden nature. Also, the movie comes off as a well-produced film that seems like there was care and polish put towards its presentation. It never felt like that this was small budget film that was lucky to get funded, but something that someone felt like there could have been potential and was treated as such.
The problem is the story; it’s just plain bad. First, jokes about suicide and mental illness are too taboo to be funny. Yet, for this movie, it’s a major theme and it really tries to beat a dead horse by constantly making jokes about it. The rest of the comedy revolves around how the major players in this story are pathetic. At first, it generates a few chuckles, but then it very quickly becomes grating. Blend that with a story that isn’t compelling at all and it makes for a very tedious film to sit through.
There’s also little chemistry between any of the characters. Martin and Grodin don’t mesh well as best friends. Martin and Ivey do have something going between them, but not enough to entice the viewer to feel invested in their relationship or care if they end up staying together after all. It all feels either forced, unnatural, or not important.
Arthur Hiller’s The Lonely Guy has the foundation for a decent movie, but it’s a chore to watch. Nobody cares if Larry finds love or ends up alone. The people around him are insufferable. However, to totally dismiss this film outright is unfair to most of those who are involved in this production. Hiller does his best with what he’s got to work with. The performances are fair (Grodin aside). Yet the story and character development are horrendous. This is one of the better made films that you should avoid.