Think of this as a guide through each of Christopher Walken's films, starting with his first and moving forward. Each review will provide analysis, factoids and opinion on the ninety-plus films in his career.
Genre: Coming-of-age Drama
Walken in Short: This is necessary Walken.
He’s such a charming jerk in this.
Directed and Written: Paul Mazursky
Duration: 1 Hour and 51 mins
Comparable Films: The Graduate, A Bronx Tale, Almost Famous, Igby Goes Down, Annie Hall* (also a Walken Film), The Big Chill
Available to Own: on DVD. Sure, it’s around. Could probably find it on VHS somewhere really cheap. Wherever.
MPAA Rating: It got an ‘R’. There is a little nudity and some sex, but nothing too graphic; same goes for the suicide. Not a very hard ‘R’ at all.
Actors Other Than Walken: Lenny Baker, Shelley Winters, Ellen Greene, Lou Jacobi, Jeff Goldblum
Movie in a Sentence: A young New York Actor and his friends deal with the complications of leaving home, falling in and out of love, suicide and other existential dilemmas.
Should You Watch This: Yes you should. Just be in the right mood for it. This is not your traditional crowd-pleaser. It is a bit of a slow-roller. And it takes some dark turns, so keep that in mind. But the writing is great and the bottom line is: any Walken fan needs to see this.
MY RATING: Objectively 7 out of 10, although Walken’s presence bumps it up to an 8
Walken Content: Just under a quarter of the film is Walkenized. But it’s a shiiiny quarter!
“I did run away from home. When I was 15. I knew I wanted to be a writer. I knew. I also knew I wanted to sleep with a lot of different women. What can I tell you? People get hurt.” ~ Robert Fulmer (Walken)
So basically,Next Stop, Greenwich Village is a coming-of-age drama set in 1953 about the people in an aspiring actor’s life when he moves out of his parents’ house and into a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village.
Larry has an overbearing mother (Shelley Winters, in an almost cartoon-like performance of THE over-wrought Jewish mother) who can’t let go of her son, and a pregnant (spoiler?) girlfriend (played by Ellen Greene, remember Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors: “Oh Seemowah!”) who doesn’t want the baby and may in fact not want Larry either.
This is a well-written, well-acted period-piece that explores themes of personal identity, monogamy, abortion, acting (both on the stage and amongst friends), Jewishness, and suicide.
Oh and it’s funny too.
Though Larry Lapinsky is the main character, it is actually the myriad of colorful secondaries that make this film work as well as it does. His acting coach, the cop walking the beat, guests at a party, these characters all have these charming little scenes with clever lines, a fun energy, and a real sense of gravitas that keeps it from getting hokey.
Lou Jacobi is great in this. He plays Larry’s boss at the juice bar, Herb, but I also remember him as Murray from Amazon Women on the Moon, and he was also in Roseland with our own Mr. Walken just a year after this fine film was released.
In all three films Jacobi plays the same kind of character: a vaguely older, feisty gentleman of the Jewish persuasion. And I don’t know about you but I delight in the rhythms and quirks of that accent. I love it. Everything’s a question and an accusation simultaneously. He bullies, yells, and goes on tirades, and yet there’s something inherently avuncular about his bull-dog manner. Interestingly, he’s like a male version of Larry’s mother, but without all the screeching.
A shockingly young-looking Jeff Goldblum has a whopping 3 minutes of air-time, but I triple-must mention it because he is such an endearingly self-righteous ponce in this. He is playing an actor who is just flabbergasted that he actually has to audition for a role, and he isn’t afraid at all to voice his objections or his opinions with anyone. Wonderful stuff, but oh so brief.
If you don’t blink, a sombrero-ed twenty-something Bill Murray is on the screen for all of two seconds as the camera pans across a crowded bar. He is Nick Kessler, the subject of an anecdote Larry tells his girlfriend. When I saw this I was all like:
“What the?! Was that Bill Muray!! Nawwww, it couldn’t be.” ~ Me, a little while ago
And yet, it was. Uncredited, fleeting, mustachioed, yet undeniably: Bill Murray.
A lot of the scenes revolve around the friends that Larry has acquired in the Village. At first I was thinking that I should write more about them, but the more I think about it, and their group dynamic, and their whole back-story, I think I will just let you find out about them yourself. Cause let’s face it: you’ve already decided whether or not you’re going to track this movie down and watch it. So whaddaya WANT for my life? … Eh? What’s that? More Walken?
Though it could be argued that Walken’s character, the poet Robert Fulmer, is one of ‘the friends,’ I would have to say that he is really more of a friendly acquaintance. And when I say ‘friendly’, I mean he smiles patiently at their jokes and he is playful with them, but Robert is not one of them.
His clothes are expensive, his diction precise, and his poise is downright regal, but it is his outspoken pragmatic morality that most noticeably clashes with their liberal sensitivities. He is certainly a minority amongst this group of starry-eyed idealists, but he is chock full of confidence and never misses an opportunity to test the integrity of their opinions. And he does it all with such charm! They love him for it. He uses accents in his anecdotes and quotes William Blake on a whim. Robert is so unwaveringly worldly, charming and well-spoken that he almost seems supernatural standing next to these flawed and emotional young bohemians.
He is like some kind of handsome alien prince traveling incognito with a motley circus troupe of freak performers. He wants to blend in, but he comes from another world!
Though I was generally annoyed with Larry and his enthusiastic portrayal of a bad actor and a self-centered boyfriend, I loved his girlfriend, and the friends and everyone else, so in the end, not too shabby. It was funny, and touching, and interesting to see that area of New York in that particular moment of history.
Let me tell you: Thirty of the 111 minutes in this film are Walken-filled goodness. He is the antagonist, but he is no cardboard-thin villain, and he is not without his own sympathies. Even if you don’t buy my opinion of the rest of it, Walken’s performance in this film is certainly enough reason by itself to watch it. He conga-dances, Yiddish-talks, and Chaplin-walks out of a cafe. He is a smooth-talking scoundrel and a dastardly bastard.
And he’s great.