About a leching, alcoholic Scottish poet making the New England campus circuit, Reuben, Reuben is exceptionally literate, with lines that carom with wit from the superb adaptation by Julius J. Epstein of a 1964 Peter De Vries novel [and the play Spofford by Herman Shumlin]. Epstein, with De Vries’ blessing, merged three separate stories in the novel into the character of the rascal poet on the slide.
Helmsman Robert Ellis Miller draws solid performances from debuting actress Kelly McGillis, whose chic blonde Vassar looks interestingly contrast, in this case, with her character’s farmyard roots. She becomes the all-consuming obsession of Tom Conti as he lurches from one bottle and bed to another. Two of his sexual conquests on the poet’s college town Circuit are nicely and avariciously played by Cynthia Harris and E. Katherine Kerr.
But the film is a tour-de-force act for Conti (in his first US-made film) and he captures the vulnerability of a man whose plunge into darkness suggests the emotional time most closely associated with 4 a.m.
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1983: Nominations: Best Actor (Tom Conti), Adapted Screenplay