Harry and Jake, two unsuccessful writers, spend a cathartic evening arguing about money, aesthetics, their friendship, and Harry's new manuscript.Harry and Jake, two unsuccessful writers, spend a cathartic evening arguing about money, aesthetics, their friendship, and Harry's new manuscript.Harry and Jake, two unsuccessful writers, spend a cathartic evening arguing about money, aesthetics, their friendship, and Harry's new manuscript.
The narrative is almost exclusively as a one-on-one conversation between the two main characters, yet it is littered with various ineffectual camera angles and at times redundant flashbacks that add nothing to the story, which apparently relates the rapport, romance and failure in the pathetic mid-life of a failed writer barely making ends meet as a doorman, that is, until he is fired. It does so as if such cerebral notions of life would pull the emotional triggers they do here between the writer, Harry Levine, played by Pacino, and his friend Jake Manheim, a photographer played by Jerry Orbach. The result is that, yes, some arresting moments and observations are produced, but they feel nonetheless forced. As director, Pacino brings to bear a periodically overwrought utilization of cuts in the dialogue scenes with Harry and Jake, and so perhaps it is not the words themselves, but the prevention of their taking priority that causes them to seem contrived.
Harry visits Jake impulsively because he is desperate for money and Jake owes him some from a long time ago. He doesn't have the money, so the two engage in an all-night conversation about the aesthetics and troubles of their separate trades, past and present loves, and the directions their lives are taking. The play and film are set in New York City circa 1985. Why? I don't know.
After years of withholding it, Pacino allowed it to be released as a part of a three-movie boxed set called Pacino: An Actor's Vision. Though I see why he might not have been happy with his work, the film stands as testimony that art-house and independent films need not be about overrefined individuals, for Harry and Jake are, from what I could tell, animatedly high-handed men who have merely outlived their functions in society. This is decidedly the case for Jake, but whether or not it is for Harry seems the question of the film.
- Sep 7, 2009