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Lost In Yonkers

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: PG (Thematic elements and mild language)

Running Time: 114 minutes

Starring: Richard Dreyfus, Mercedes Ruehl, Irene Worth, David Stratharin

Screenplay by: Neil Simon
Based upon his play

Directed by: Martha Coolidge

 

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Retail Price: $24.95

Features: Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (28 Scenes)

Released: June 11th, 2002

 

 

Three months after their mother dies, Jay (Brad Stoll) and Arty (Mike Damus)'s father thinks he might be able to find work down South during World War II to pay off a loan shark. As a result, Jay and Arty are forced to live with their grandmother in Yonkers, New York. There they meet up with Aunt Bella (Mercedes Ruehl), a woman who you might think is eccentric, but is really a mixed-up, oversensitive woman who acts like a little child instead of a mature adult.

As the boys move in upstairs from their grandmother's store, they're not looking forward to their stay. However, they seem to start and enjoy the crazy life their family tends to offer. Uncle Louie (Richard Dreyfuss) may have too much of an ego for his own good despite what he says is a bit exaggerated; Grandma (Irene Worth) is quite cold and seems to be evil and finally Bella who seems to live in her own fantasy world where she's obsessed with movies, all while dating a theater usher named Johnny (David Stratharin).

Based on Neil Simon's play, the film version of "Lost In Yonkers" keeps everything major all intact, probably because Simon adapted his own play for the screenplay. Simon, who is one of my favorite playwrights, does a very impeccable job here in adapting the story for the screen. I think it's an overall charming story and true one. The characters may seem a bit overexaggerated and a bit eccentric, but the key to Simon's story are these characters: despite their quirks, they seem quite real.

Simon's story has deeper meaning, as the characters do mature in their own ways and learn about themselves. There is a certain sweetness to Simon's story and a certain innocence, despite that the backdrop is against some of America's hardest and toughest times in such a key time for all of the world. The story, despite how funny it can be, does touch the heart and is easy to relate to. Despite the characters maturing and the like, it's really about what life is all about. It's about discovering some magic in a place you'd never expect, about overcoming your flaws and overall making a better life for yourself and for something you personally want. All of this, with Simon's quick banter and solid storytelling.

It's notable to realize that "Lost In Yonkers" was the first movie to use the Avid digital editing system, which has now become standard in the film industry. It's also notable that Elmer Bernstein's score reflect this kind hearted and fun tale. It's also worth talking about Martha Coolidge's pitch perfect direction. She captures the characters very well, the time of the world seems really intact and the little details of the war and the 1940s are beautifully represented in some very great shots. The film moves at a great pace too, and it all works very well.

The acting is excellent, especially Irene Worth's cruel, demanding and pretty funny Grandma Kurnitz. You believe that Worth is the grandmother from hell... she's stern and has a painful manner. This is a role she originated on broadway and won a Tony for it. Still, Mercedes Ruehl steals the show. Also originating the role on broadway and winning a Tony, Ruehl captures the happiness, bleakness, excitment and over energy that Aunt Bella offers to everyone. Her work here is simply wonderful and magical. The mannerisms she offers, her deliveries and how she acts like a child is really amazing. Richard Dreyfuss is a fantastic uncle Louie with his ways and craziness, while Brad Stoll and Mike Damus have good accents and a likability to them. David Stratharin is also quite good in his small role.

If you like good storytelling and great characters all wrapped in great themes, Simon always delivers and this film adaption of his classic Pulitzer play is really worth watching.

 

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, this is a very good image to look at. There is some shimmering, blemishes, pieces of dirt and a lot of grain which gets in the way, not to mention some slight edge enhancment. Despite those instances, there's a lot of good here. Detail and shadow detail comes off very nice, while fleshtones look quite good and color satuartion is very well done. Colors are bold and fitting - be it the blandness of the house, the Yonkers street or the greeny park. Very good things here.

 

An English Dolby Surround track is included which works fine. There are some nice little effects like street crowds, the rain and the fine music. Dialogue is crisp and clear too, while fidelity is pretty high. The sound dynamics are pretty strong for the track, and it's pretty simple overall. And that's fine, because the simplicity but elegance of this track is pretty unique, all like the film itself. Also included are English closed captions, French subtitles and English subtitles.

 

Theatrical Trailers here. "Lost In Yonkers," "A League Of Their Own" and "A Soldier's Story" can be viewed.

 

With a good Dolby surround track, fine transfer and a decent price, the film version of "Lost In Yonkers" is really worth checking it out if you're interested or happen to enjoy Simon's work.