Review: ‘Crossing the Bridge’

Writer-director Mike Binder's drama is set in 1975 Detroit, where three high school buddies hang out, get drunk and generally avoid thinking about the future three years after h.s. graduation. Mort (Josh Charles), clearly intended as Binder's alter ego, is a budding writer and would-be comic whose chief ambition is to write sitcom scripts.

Writer-director Mike Binder’s drama is set in 1975 Detroit, where three high school buddies hang out, get drunk and generally avoid thinking about the future three years after h.s. graduation. Mort (Josh Charles), clearly intended as Binder’s alter ego, is a budding writer and would-be comic whose chief ambition is to write sitcom scripts.

In that, he’s muchless aimless than Tim (Jason Gedrick), a hothead whose chief hobby is fighting, and Danny (Stephen Baldwin), the taciturn son of a former h.s. coach.

The first hour or so plays like a retread of “Breaking Away” as three leads work at menial jobs, carouse with equally aimless buddies and consider themselves superior to former classmates who attend college.

Most of the episodic misadventures are played for laughs, including a sequence in which Mort, his mother (Rita Taggart) and Uncle Alby (Jeffrey Tambor) have a famous New York Times writer (Hy Anzell) over for dinner.

Mort listens in awe as the writer talks about what it means to be a true wordsmith. Then the writer drops dead from a heart attack.

Uncle Alby thinks it’s all because of something Mort said. “This man survived the death camps of Nazi Germany!” the uncle cries. “Only to succumb during an evening with you!”

It takes a colossal amount of nerve to bring up the Holocaust for a cheap laugh. But, then again, Binder is quite shameless. His Mort is more sensitive and intelligent than everyone else on-screen, making for an unabashedly celebratory cinematic self-portrait.

Final third of pic has three leads heading across the Ambassador Bridge to Canada, where they think they’re going to pick up some hash from a hippie-scum supplier (Richard Edson) for a dealer back home.

Things turn sour when the guys find they’re really expected to smuggle heroin in their car back to Detroit.

This triggers a three-part crisis of conscience that provides the pic’s only real suspense.

Performances are as good as they can be, given the circumstances. Baldwin in particular registers strong screen presence. Other tech credits are good.

Crossing the Bridge

Production

A Buena Vista release of a Touchstone Pictures presentation of an Outlaw production. Produced by Jeffrey Silver, Robert Newmyer. Co-producers, Caroline Baron, Jack Binder. Directed, written by Mike Binder.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color), Tom Sigel; editor, Adam Weiss; music, Peter Himmelman; production design, Craig Stearns; costume design, Carol Ramsey; sound (Dolby), Ed Novick, Mark Goodermote; associate producers, Judd Apatow, Joel Madison; casting, Richard Pagano/Sharon Bialy, Debi Manwiller. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival, Sept. 3, 1992. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 103 min.

With

Mort Golden - Josh Charles
Tim Reed - Jason Gedrick
Danny Morgan - Stephen Baldwin
Carol Brockton - Cheryl Pollak
Kate Golden - Rita Taggart
Manny Goldfarb - Hy Anzell
Mitchell - Richard Edson
Lou Morgan - Ken Jenkins
Rinny - Abraham Benrubi
John Anderson - David Schwimmer
Baldy - Bob Nickman
Smiling Jack - James Krag
Monica - Rana Haugen
Uncle Alby - Jeffrey Tambor
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