Molly Haskell

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 411

Mikey and Nicky are so enclosed in their own mediocrity [in Mikey and Nicky] that their night-long binge of recrimination and reconciliation is … more obscuring than enlightening. And when the light does come, in a violent denouement—sunlight, the illumination of the sibling rivalry—it is too late and too bright and too neat.

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Elaine May hasn't come any closer to mastering the basics of filmmaking or developing a feeling for the medium, and awkwardnesses that were incorporated into the daffiness of A New Leaf or partially covered by the professionalism of Heartbreak Kid here stand exposed, and there is no humor to redeem them. (pp. 36-7)

I think I wouldn't mind the film so much if it didn't seem constantly to be telling us (as [John] Cassavetes's films always do) how much more "real" and authentic it is than all those phony Hollywood films to which both directors feel so comfortably and erroneously superior. May reminds me of the feminist who refuses to so much as wash a dirty dish after herself because it stands for the traditions and the tyrannies she left suburbia to escape. There is something symbolically apt in the image of Elaine May stealing two reels of her film from Paramount at one point in their altercation. She makes films in the same way, as if each moment of an actor's jagged improvisation were truth seized from under the noses and against the wishes of evil Hollywood. The great fuss over the cutting seems ironic, since you could throw the pieces up in the air and they would settle down in some form that as much resembles a pattern or progression as this one does.

As for Mikey and Nicky, even though we don't like 'em, I think Elaine May does, or thinks she does, and the fact that she has not been able to transfigure them with her affection is significant. Perhaps, unwittingly, she has planted the kiss of death on the buddy myth, at least for a while. If so, I will forgive her anything, even the misogyny that binds her to her male characters and is so casually contemptuous of the females—the three women are all dim-witted doormats—as to make one almost appreciate the stylized grotesques of Lina Wertmuller. (p. 37)

Molly Haskell, "A Long Day's Journey into Buddy-Buddy Land," in The Village Voice (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), Vol. XXI, No. 1, January 3, 1977, pp. 36-7.

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