Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Big Fix

Jeremy Kagan | 1978 | 108 mins | USA

A very young and astonishingly charming Richard Dreyfuss stars as an ex Berkley activist turned private eye in this love letter to 1960s radicalism. Dreyfuss was riding the highest wave of his career, in the aftermath of Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goodbye Girl, so I guess it's no wonder that he plays the character of Moses Wise in this fun little crime-comedy with so much natural charm that you just want to pinch his cute, rosy cheeks all the goddamn time. After all, he was on top of the world!

Seriously though, the film is terrific. Moses Wine is a gumshoe and divorced dad who's perpetually late on support payments to his exasperated ex, Suzanne (Bonnie Bedelia). When former flame Lila Shay (Susan Anspach) comes back into his life and asks him to investigate possible sabotage on the campaign of one Miles Hawthorne, a dull liberal running for Governor of California, everything goes haywire.

It seems that someone has been passing around fake flyers on which '60s radical Howard Eppis (now living underground after a famous conviction) is shown endorsing Hawthorne. Since associating with a known criminal and wanted man could sink the whole campaign, Moses is sent off by ambitious campaign manager Sam Sebastian (John Lithgow) to find the elusive Eppis.

Eppis (F. Murray Abraham) is a prankster activist whose appearance and notoriety were obviously modeled after real-life radical Abbie Hoffman (who was living underground at the time the film was made), with a bit of Weathermen-esque violence thrown in for good measure. As Moses draws closer to Eppis and to the answers, a torrent of nostalgia for the '60s rains down upon the film so intensely that you're gonna miss the good old days even if you weren't even a glimmer in your hippie mom's eye at the time.

I could easily watch a series of five or six Moses Wise films, in which the pot-smoking P.I. takes his kids on stakeouts and solves mysteries in his yellow convertible VW Bug.

Halfway through this film my movie date turned to me and asked "who's the Richard Dreyfuss of today?", and I have to admit we were both stumped. Please weigh in on this important question, loyal readers.


Ralph Echtinaw said...

I share your love of this movie but feel it was less than successful because halfway in it went from a lighthearted comedy to something much closer to a drama. Loved the running joke about protagonist's arm cast. He had a different story for everyone who asked him about it. And character names were most memorable of any movie I've ever seen. I'll be first in line if it ever comes out on DVD.

Cohalen said...

I'd vote for Jeremy Piven as the Richard Dreyfuss of today. Adept equally at comedy and drama. Willing to play the good guy or the bad; and a deep centeredness that reaches the audience effortlessly.

I've been hoping this would come out in DVD before now...maybe someday.

Unknown said...

I love this movie and also the great music score by Bill Conti. Hope for a DVD and soundtrack release soon!

Anonymous said...

It didn't do well because the world in 1978 was turning towards Reagan....and radical hippie nostalgia was the very last thing
audiences wanted to engage in.

It's a very special film, and probably Dreyfuss's last truly great performance.

Anonymous said...

If you liked this (and I did) -- fast forward 10 years and see Richard in 1988's "Moon Over Parador" which is one of the classic commedies of all time.

Anonymous said...

Essentially one of the truly "lost" films of late 70's Hollywood, "The Big Fix" may well be of the greatest curios of the transition between the radical, socially critical auteur-driven masterpieces of that decade that flourished throughout the Watergate years, and the slowly encroaching dawn of Reaganite conservatism that would end that daring and creative era soon enough, as the beginning of the 1980's crested, and turned the American cinema into a corporate-run, executive-ruled wasteland. Dreyfuss, then at the very peak of his career, and immediately post-Oscar, never rose to those populist heights again in the wake of the failure of this film, due in part to changing political times, and the sudden recoil towards anything that smacked of liberal-radical torch-bearing or emotional sentiments towards the failed social revolutions of the 60's. Any keen observer will realize that it was no coincidence that the movie was forgotten and ignored; it's content was it's own epitaph, as the country began to drift rightward by the autumn of 1978, (it's release date) and the seeds of a reactionary movement would sprout toxic foliage that still grows strongly within the Trumpism of our present day.

Anonymous said...

Correction regarding the above review: the first line should read "The Big Fix" may well be one of the greatest casualties, as well as curios, of the transition between the radical, socially critical, auteur driven masterpieces of that decade that flourished throughout the Watergate years, and the slowly encroaching dawn of Reaganite conservatism that would end that daring and creative era soon enough at the beginning of the 1980's."