26 January 2005 | Lechuguilla
One of The Best TV Movies Ever
Locals gather at a country-western bar in Los Angeles on a stormy night, to watch, or to participate in, an amateur talent contest. The film has a top-notch ensemble cast that includes: Don Johnson, Candy Clark, Victor French, Dennis Quaid, and the wonderful Louise Latham.
This is a film about the hopes and dreams, the frustrations, and the disappointments of ordinary people. The script, in concert with adroit film editing, skillfully blends these themes into multiple plot lines, resulting in a believable story about people whose lives are confused and jumbled. The juxtaposition of humor with pathos lends irony and a sense of realism. And the film's music, which ranges from silly to sad, amplifies a broad range of human emotion.
One segment in particular shows how the screenplay cleverly interweaves discordant themes. A hilariously inept three-girl act, called the Nutter Sisters, begins to perform. As their singing act spirals out of control, the camera cuts away to the bar, where an embittered and alcoholic woman named Lettie, played by the inimitable Sheree North, enters into a serious conversation with the contest's judge, a washed-up and forgotten singer named Milt, played by Henry Gibson.
Lettie: "In this world, everyone needs a little anesthetic" (booze). Milt: "Alcohol is - well, you might get off on it for awhile, but it does you harm, so you can't achieve full use of what you got". Lettie: "Are you achieving full use of what you've got? You sang do-ahs on that record, how long ago? And where is your career now?" Milt (smiling): "I'll get it together, if I can. But either way, I'm going to do it without the bottle. Life's too short. And as the audience continues to laugh at the incompetent Nutter Sisters, Lettie responds: "Nope -- Life's TOO LONG".
Later, as a lonely, young woman named Marcy (Joan Goodfellow) starts to sing the mournful song "You're The King Of The Good Times", the camera again cuts away to the bar where Milt is fumbling with the cap of an aspirin bottle. Lettie helps him out: "It's a trick cap; only children can open it -- children and drunks".
"Amateur Night At The Dixie Bar And Grill" is not for everyone. People wanting: explosions, violence, sex, gore, special effects, or cinematic gimmicks, will need to go elsewhere. This is a more sedate, traditional type film. For people who like country-western music, and for those who enjoy richly drawn character studies, I give this film my highest recommendation.