Review: ‘Bright Lights, Big City’

This novel-cum-feature film (from Jay McInerney's book) is a distinctly morose and maudlin journey through one man's destructive period of personal loss.

This novel-cum-feature film (from Jay McInerney’s book) is a distinctly morose and maudlin journey through one man’s destructive period of personal loss.

Opening scene establishes Michael J. Fox as a lonesome barfly with a cocaine habit in the Big Apple. First reason given is that his wife (Phoebe Cates) has dumped him to pursue modeling in Paris. It’s later learned that he’s also grieving over the death of his mother (Dianne Wiest) a year earlier.

Fox is cast here as Jamie, a would-be writer marking time as a fact checker for literary giant Gotham magazine. Jamie quickly slides so badly that he’s fired during a scene with editorial chief, Frances Sternhagen – an exchange that points up the benefit of placing the youthful Fox in situations with seasoned veterans.

Jason Robards’ appearance as a drunken fiction writer is all too familiar and a brief encounter with the fascinating William Hickey and a pittance of time with Wiest round out these cameos.

Bright Lights, Big City


United Artists/Mirage. Director James Bridges; Producer Mark Rosenberg, Sydney Pollack; Screenplay Jay McInerney; Camera Gordon Willis; Editor John Bloom, George Berndt; Music Donald Fagen, Rob Mounsey; Art Director Santo Loquasto


(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1988. Running time: 110 MIN.


Michael J. Fox Kiefer Sutherland Phoebe Cates Swoosie Kurtz Frances Sternhagen Tracy Pollan
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