The melodrama “Radiant City” combines the musical production flash of “West Side Story” with the ’50s nostalgia of “Happy Days.” The vidpic’s portrayal of postwar life in a Brooklyn housing project is filled with smart costumes, choreography and doo-wop singing, and the theme — families yearning for upward mobility — should appeal to viewers.
Writer-co-producer Lewis Colick’s script makes for a sweet bedtime tale, but its idealized setting is a far cry from the gritty poverty of working-class New York City.
Kirstie Alley makes the most of her role as bored, neurotic housewife Gloria Goodman, whose penchant for risk-taking and ambition to escape the projects exceed the motivation of her husband, Al (Clancy Brown).
Ill-conceived opening sets up the story as seen through the eyes of the Goodmans’ young son, Stewie (Adam Lamberg), but focus then shifts to Gloria’s viewpoint, with details that no young boy, even in retrospect, could possibly imagine.
Tension rises when Gloria secretly goes to work as a cosmetics clerk in a department store and begins a summer flirtation with beatnik rebel Bert Kramer (Gil Bellows). Antics of Stewie as well as the romantic misadventures of teenage daughter Sherry (Tori McPetrie) provide comedy.
The Goodmans struggle to discipline their children, but hunger and substance abuse never enter “Radiant City’s” stylish, amus-ing scenarios.
Life in Radiant City centers on fights with housing cops, gossip encouraged by crowding, cigarettes, playing in traffic and $ 2 bets.
Most importantly, as each family moves up and out to the suburbs, there is the envy of those left behind.
Director Robert Allan Ackerman shepherds this uneven cast into a cohesive performance, and elicits memorable acting from Alley.
Kudos also to Kenny Pearl, who did the choreography, and Dona Granata, the costumes.