Films: Nobody's Fool

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Nobody's Fool

Nobody's Fool

USA, 1994, 110 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Archival, Drama
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Robert Benton
Producer: Arlene Donovan, Scott Rudin, (executive) Michael Hausman
Editor: John Bloom
Screenwriter: Robert Benton
Cinematographer: John Bailey
Principal Cast: Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith
US Distributor: Paramount Pictures

With invaluable help from Oscar-winning writer-director Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer), Paul Newman offers the finest performance of his autumnal years in this vibrantly detailed, richly humorous, and deeply humane dramedy about nothing in particular and everything that matters.

Although Benton based his script on a Richard Russo novel, plot is hardly what drives Nobody’s Fool, set during wintertime in a small town in upstate New York. Sully (Newman) is a construction worker who’s as aimless and broke as he is amiable—much to the chagrin of his scolding landlady, Miss Beryl (a luminescent Jessica Tandy in her final screen appearance). When he isn’t trying to wheedle work out of Carl, a contractor who’s slow to cut checks, Sully’s busy suing him for an on-the-job injury or flirting with his frankly discontented wife, Toby (Melanie Griffith). Fortunately, Carl (a solid Bruce Willis) doesn’t take anything Sully does very seriously. Come to think of it, neither does Sully. Until one day, things slowly but surely start to change. And at the age of sixty, Sully finds himself on the verge of finally becoming a responsible adult. Mind you, it’s nothing he particularly looks forward to. Like almost everything else in his life, it just happens, and he learns to deal with it.

Everything Newman does here is marvelously subtle, and much of what he says is self-effacingly hilarious. He gets to play opposite a host of splendid supporting players—not only the aforementioned but also Dylan Walsh, Philip Bosco, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Pruitt Taylor Vince. But he’s at his absolute best while bantering and bickering with Tandy. “Does it ever bother you,” Miss Beryl cracks, “that you haven’t done more with the life God gave you?” “Not often,” he replies with a wan smile—adding wistfully on second thought, “Now and then.”

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