Hungry for Attention

Clean, Shaven demonstrated Kerrigan's intermittent brilliance. (Here, the movie jumps to life when Elton, in a scarily intense burst of adrenaline, is robbed in his cab.) But, even more than his heroine, the filmmaker seems boxed in by his own schemata. Less awful than inert, Claire Dolan comes across as a willfully bad movie. The moment of maximum stupefaction arrives when Claire affectlessly announces her desire. "I want to have a child," she abruptly informs Elton, adding without inflection, "we can make it work." Her conviction is underwhelming.

Those in search of an energy fix could do worse than Don McGlynn's Louis Prima: The Wildest, a big smoochy valentine to one of the most resilient American entertainers of the 20th century which, having had its local premiere at the Margaret Mead, opens a week from Friday at Cinema Village. Born in New Orleans, the wildly energetic Prima was a trumpet-playing, hoarse-voiced scat singer—a white disciple of Louis Armstrong (whom I don't believe the movie ever mentions). Discovered by Guy Lombardo in the '30s, Prima helped establish 52nd Street as a Dixieland mecca. He wrote the swing blockbuster "Sing, Sing, Sing," relocated to Hollywood, and dated Jean Harlow. A crony recalls his response to the actress's untimely death: "I think he was sad."

Berlin's story: Edie Falco in Babylon
Shooting Gallery
Berlin's story: Edie Falco in Babylon


Judy Berlin
Written and directed by Eric Mendelsohn
A Shooting Gallery Presentation
At the Loews State Theater
Opens February 25

Claire Dolan
Written and directed by Lodge Kerrigan
At the Walter Reade
February 25 through March 2

Louis Prima: The Wildest
Directed by Don McGlynn
At Cinema Village
Opens March 3

The movie is similarly taciturn on other biographical subjects, but Prima's call and response clowning has near universal appeal. Always looking for an audience, he recorded in Italian, played the Apollo, and made the transition from big-band swing to proto-rock 'n' roll. Most spectacularly, Prima reinvented himself as a Las Vegas hepcat, abetted by the impassive vocalist Keely Smith and frantic saxophonist Sam Butera. He was still limber enough to jump on the Twist and even provide Walt Disney with a star vocal turn in The Jungle Book. Nor was that the end. McGlynn's performance-rich doc appears to have been made too soon to acknowledge Prima's posthumous assist to the most successful Gap ad in history.

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