Joan Micklin Silver’s Between The Lines is in incisive dramatic comedy. It’s perfectly cast and those performances are the strength of the film alongside the screenplay by Fred Barron and .
Jeff Goldblum is the easy standout here. He’s just so watchable as Max Arloft, the music critic for an up-and-coming (depending on who you talk to) Boston newspaper. A scene where he gives a nonsensical, but totally in-character “lecture” to a group of young women is so great.
As he pontificates about the Beatles and others, the women take copious notes. He finds time to flirt, and the camera gets closer as that moment nears.
Goldblum’s presence, his rambling semi-serious delivery, and that jacket(!) all make this scene. And also the way Silver handles it. It’s so static and quiet. Arloft feels that pressure a bit – are they buying his schtick?
But my favorite scene of the film is when a performance artist bursts into the newspaper office and “performs” by destroying a typewriter:
Silver does cut in, but she mostly lives on this wide, and it’s a good one. She just neatly blocks the characters to the side of the desk post-throw, and then stages Arloft back out to counter the performance artist’s work of destruction with some of his own. It’s clean, is the correct camera position and lens, and keeps us behind the desk as viewer of the “art” rather than within the action.
There are so many other memorable set pieces, particularly a climactic scene featuring Bruno Kirby that’s so well built to.
The production design and wardrobe are great. The 80s are coming! In a late scene with the new boss Roy Walsh (Lane Smith – again, perfectly cast), we can see that he’s of the old school (outdated, perhaps) by his clothes:
The Forty-Year Old Version
This is another beautifully cast film. Radha Blank’s comedy has so many scenes I won’t soon forget: the “Poverty Porn” rap with D (Oswin Benjamin); the climax on-stage and the various meanings that FYOV takes; her interaction with Lamont (Jacob-Ming Trent) and his lines about the sandwich and old-man-wisdom.
Those scenes are so well-written, but also really perfectly staged. Her ECU in the booth next to D, that wide when she’s on-stage (from roughly her students’ perspective), cutting into her CU, Lamont’s coverage making him look a bit shriveled and small despite the fact that he’s totally owning the scene. Great stuff.
The Forty-Year Old Version takes risks that pay off. The end of an infuriating conversation that, in most films, would be revealed to have been a dream, but here is reality. Frame-within-frame color asides about Radha’s play and its various iterations, or about her manager and friend’s Archie (Peter Kim) ahem, “exploits” to get her a gig.
The film is self-deprecating at times, but also seems pulled from reality. I haven’t read much about it, but I’d be surprised if Radha Blank’s own experiences don’t make up a large portion of the “gatekeeper” narrative here.
I’m always curious about black and white decisions. The ending, where the shot changes from black and white to color perhaps offers an insight into why. That seems to be a world of new possibility. The asides, which are also in color, are false possibilities. That’s an on-the-nose way to say it, but I think there’s some truth to it. Plus, it looks great (always a good reason to do something), and there’s such a strong motif of nostalgia and the past in here.
I remember being blown away by Imani Lewis in Eighth Grade and she’s awesome here, again.