Mr. Saturday Night
directed by Billy Crystal, at Loews Fresh Pond
Comedy is often a defense against the trials and woes of life. Great comics use humor to protect themselves from rejection, anxiety and reality. Buddy Young, Jr. (Billy Crystal) is guilty of this crime in the new film Mr. Saturday Night.
In Mr. Saturday Night Crystal portrays Young as a comic who has spent 50 years fighting his way to the middle. Buddy has come close to stardom several times in his career, but each time his antagonistic personality blows it for him.
David Paymer (Crazy People) plays brother/manager Stan Yankelman who, throughout the years, has had to put up with Buddy's irksome personality. Yankelman has tried his best to get Buddy the stardom and attention he needs and craves, even at the expense of his own aims and goals.
Young's story is presented in the format of flashbacks about the most memorable episodes in his life. In its most basic form, Mr. Saturday Night chronicles the life and times of a comic whose caustic wit has cost him stardom. The film shows how Buddy has been his own worst enemy, ruining his chances for success and alienating those close to him.
Mr. Saturday Night explores the nature of Buddy's most intimate friendships and romantic relationships. It follows the ups and downs of Buddy's association with his brother, wife Elaine (Julie Warner) and his daughter Susan (Mary Mara). His aggressive style of humor pushes those close to him away yet there exists a good heart and a subtle vulnerability that the humor tries to mask. For example, in a contest with his own brother for the favor of Elaine, Young's selfish disposition is the brutal key to keeping her away from Stan.
Young's incredible humor, however, allows him to smooth over such abusive actions that might land most people in serious trouble. This quality allows those close to him and the audience to like Buddy despite his abrasiveness.
Mr. Saturday Night entertains you because you laugh at what would otherwise be considered an obnoxious demeanor on the part of Young. This quality draws Annie Wells (Helen Hunt) to script his comeback in spite of the fact that he brutally insults her at their first meeting.
Young's audacity saves him in the end when, as always, an inch away from the top, he walks away from it. His stubborn attitude buffers Young's resolution at the end of the film, in which he comes to terms with his relationships and career. Buddy experiences contentment and even accepts his place in the grand scheme of things.
All the actors do well in their parts--though there is an unnecessary cameo by Jerry Lewis which still leaves me wondering why this man is considered a comic genius in France.
Underneath a myriad of laughs, the sincere pathos of Crystal's Mr. Saturday Night will leave you believing in the goodness and brilliance of a fat, balding, has-been.
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