Starring: Susan Sarandon, Burt Lancaster, Kate Reid,
Director: Louis Malle
Altantic City, with it’s crumbling buildings and casino lifestyle is a sort of metaphor for the kinds of lives that are lived there. Lou (Lancaster) likes to talk about the days when he was younger, when he fancied he was a big player in the gangster scene, rubbing shoulders with Capone and Bugsy Seigel, but now, he’s an aging numbers runner who lives with a wealthy widow as her kept lover. Sally (Sarandon) is his young neighbour, an oyster bat waitress and trainee croupier, who he sees through her window and admires, but can’t get close to. That is until her ex turns up with a cache of drugs stolen from the mob, and Sally and Lou are drawn together in a plan to live their dreams and get out of Atlantic City.
This is a bit of an odd film to categorise, because the plotting feels light and drawn along by the emotions and longings of the characters. It’s sort of a romance, sort of a thriller, but what stayed with me after this film was how they made me feel. The people in this film came to a big city for a better life, and ended up stuck and never really making it. This is the last chance for Lou, but you wonder through out whether he really will make it out. And you want him too, because although he likes to talk a big game and imagine himself as a mobster, he’s actually a romantic. It’s considered one of his finest performances, and he really is wonderful in this film.
Susan Sarandon is a natural as his crush. As she washes with lemon to counteract the smell of oysters, with her wide eyes and red curls, she’s fascinating. As Sally, she has come from Canada, and has made it so far, but with her learning french and how to be a croupier, she may just make it out. Unlike the buildings and the older people in Atlantic City, she is not old or obselete. She has drive to put behind her dreams. But what does that mean for her and Lou?
I’ve talked a lot here about Sally and Lou and their relationship, because it’s what’s stayed with me the most after this film, but it’s not really a romance. It sits kind of in the crime genre too, and it has some tense sequences. I also found it kind of funny sometimes too. It’s a film with heart, a study of the way that people can get stuck and remain in a place or a mindset as the years pass, and then get stuck, as things crumble around them. It’s a film that makes you feel, and it’s also really entertaining.
See It If: this one should please drama fans. It could be the perfect date night movie, since it has a bit of romance and a bit of action too. Highly enjoyable.