22 January 2005 | moonspinner55
She Ought Not Be In Pictures...
It must have been a casting no-brainer to put Dinah Manoff in the film-adaptation of Neil Simon's Broadway hit "I Ought To Be In Pictures" since she played the part of headstrong Libby on the stage. Unfortunately, a bombastic concoction such as Libby cannot be easily transferred to the more intimate medium of film, and the writing leaves both Manoff and the viewer at a complete loss. Neil Simon writes gag-dialogue, gag-characters, gag-situations, so when he tries to get serious--the audience doesn't know how to respond. Is this guy kidding again? Libby moves from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to reconnect with her estranged screenwriter father, ostensibly to break into movies but mostly because she needs a loving dad to hold her. These later scenes are so uncomfortable, so static, that poor Walter Matthau can only sit on the end of the bed and gape (I've never seen him at such a loss). Ann-Margret has a warm, grounded presence as Matthau's girlfriend (it's not much of a role, and the dialogue is still in Simon's one-note, but A-M manages to give this woman some soul). Manoff, looking and acting like a cross between Tatum O'Neal and Kristy McNichol, projects to the rafters, as if she were still on Broadway. She's Gussy Gumshun; and when the barriers come down and she's vulnerable, we would like to give her our sympathies, but Simon won't let us. He has already moved on, to the next limp gag. ** from ****