|Jimmy (De Niro) tries to get Francine's (Minnelli) number.|
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff
Written by Earl Mac Rauch and Mardik Martin
Starring Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro
Set during the post-World War II era, Scorsese's underappreciated work stars Robert De Niro as Jimmy Doyle, a budding saxophonist who meets little-known singer Francine Evans (Minnelli) on V-J Day and subsequently teams up with her. The pair enjoy an odd romance, as they fight, kiss, and makeup on a regular basis. But they have their music and, for what it's worth, each other. When Francine becomes pregnant just as their band is taking off, the couple must reevaluate their lives together and choose whether or not to go their separate ways. The end leaves something to be desired, but the journey to it is quite marvelous.
Two key ingredients contribute to the success of this wonderful film: Jimmy's and Francine's relationship and the music itself. As the dynamic duo, De Niro and Minnelli turn in some of their best work, with him being hotheaded and tender and her being strong and submissive. He dominates her, and she undermines him. Yet, they still love each other. Their chemistry is fantastic, and their acting talents depict this torrid relationship superbly. As for the music, which features the famous Sinatra-covered theme, it creates some of the best moments of the film, as Jimmy plays his heart out and Francine sings hers out. Now, the film is honestly too long (163 minutes), but the charm of these performances, the delightful musical numbers, and the film's rich colors make it a fabulous viewing experience. Although it is not considered to be one of Scorsese's best films, I thoroughly enjoyed this overlooked classic.
Oscar Tally: None (Deserved nominations for De Niro, Minnelli, Art Direction, and Original Song at the very least.)