Thursday, November 20, 2008
I've seen a lot of love for Hal Ashby out there, but I had never been too impressed by the guy. I mean, Harold and Maude and Coming Home are okay movies, I guess, but they were both underwhelming. I knew I'd give him another shot some day, and when I saw The Last Detail named as a favorite movie by both Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, I thought it was worth a try.
It's definitely the best one of Ashby's that I've seen. It's funny and even weirdly likable. I say weirdly because it has to be one of the most cynical, bitter comedies I've ever seen. Two navy officers (one of them played by Jack Nicholson, who is great in this) have to escort a young enlisted man to jail. His sentence is complete bullshit, he's getting 8 years for trying to steal $40, so Nicholson takes pity on him and tries to show him a good time before they lock him up. Problem is, Nicholson's ideas of a good time are not really compatible with this shy, withdrawn kid. Nicholson gets the kid to indulge in a bunch of drinking and sex to cheer him up, basically going on a series on misadventures on the way to the jail, but all it really accomplishes is making the prison stretch seem that much more miserable. What's worse, Nicholson is kind of a shithead, and it might be rubbing off on the kid.
So it's about an asshole trying to show a good time to a kid not much interested in having a good time, and in the process corrupting him and giving him a taste of the freedom he's about to lose. It would be bleak if it wasn't pretty funny.