Stars and Bars (1988)

R   |    |  Comedy

Stars and Bars (1988) Poster

A British art expert travels across America in order to purchase a rare Renoir painting in the South but comes across some crazy characters in the process.


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30 August 2016 | Prismark10
| Something wild
William Boyd adapts his own novel, Stars and Bars. Boyd has form in the fish out of water comedy as he made a television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel Scoop in the mid 1980s.

This is probably the last film by Daniel Day-Lewis before he broke out as an Actor with a capital A. He plays an art dealer Henderson who has newly arrived in New York. Henderson is a repressed stiff upper lipped Englishman who wants to break out and let loose in New York. Maybe just like the real DDL who was stuck playing either priggish English toffs (more akin to his upbringing) or yobs at this point in his career.

At work he has bizarre relationship with a work colleague (Steven Wright) and hits it off with a kooky artist (Joan Cusack.)

Henderson is sent down by his boss to the Gothic south to purchase a loss Renoir that the eccentric Harry Dean Stanton purchased in France at the end of the war. While he is there he encounters various family oddballs including Stanton's son who hates him and find himself in the middle of a rival bidding war for the painting.

The film is meant to be a bizarre comedy but it is uneven and strained. The characters are painted in broad brush strokes, some with limited screen time as the film is choppily edited. It has a loose structure which makes little sense again highlighting issues in the editing.

Whatever William Boyd's novel was, it did not hit the screen. DDL looks uncomfortable with the slapstick but at the end his Henderson might have found himself in amongst all the shenanigans.

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