Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989)

Last Exit to BrooklynIt's the 1950s. Under President Eisenhower's administration, everyone has a house in the suburbs, a decent job, a gas-guzzling car, and a basic "Leave It to Beaver" lifestyle.

Not so, said Hubert Selby, in his novel, LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN. For a good deal of the working class, times were still tough. Preyed upon by crime, toyed with by factory owners and unions, and, ultimately, shackled by their own ignorance, the working class had their promise of a white picket fence and primrose garden vacated. In Brooklyn, particularly, things were acutely tough. Manufacturing jobs were on a rapid decline, as companies moved out of town or out of state (which was why those companies remaining in Brooklyn were able to mess with their employees: take it or leave it, was their attitude). At the same time, an influx of immigrants seeking jobs made the hunt for work even more competitive--another bonus for the remaining factory owners. Slums rapidly worsened, so much so that Dodger owner Walter Alston decided his team's future was in jeopardy. L.A. looked like a much safer place for a stadium.

But neither Selby nor director Uli Edel portrayed this working class as merely innocent victims. Neither the book nor the film is a didactic rant about class warfare. The poor had their own vices of greed, brutality, and dissipation. Just about every other scene has someone going through someone else's wallets, union funds or pockets. If they aren't doing that, they're drinking, fighting, or whoring. It's a pretty dismal world. The natural response to this film might be: "Wait a minute. Not everyone working class Johnny-Punchclock guy was a criminal. Most people worked hard and honestly." Of course, this is true but it's not the film's concern. This is a study of those who were trapped in that world, and this study is compelling and horrifying.

Uli Edel has perfectly captured this bleak world, either bathing everything in a garish light or obscuring it in heavy shadows. The performances are brilliant. There's no understating Jennifer Jason Leigh's gritty and powerful performance. Also keep an eye out for a cameo by Hubert Selby as the driver who hits Georgette. Not for the weak-stomached and definitely not for kids, LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN is as cinematographically close to the innermost circle of urban hell as you can get.

This is a frank filming of the Hubert Selby novel about the brutality of street life in Brooklyn 1952. If you like "happy" films, this isn't for you. But if you appreciate a good dose of realism, the film is remarkable.

Buy Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) Now

Here is a visually stunning adaptation of Herbert Selby's unvarnished novel about street-wise losers in 1952 Brooklyn. This film includes graphic violence and sexual situations not for the "Romantic Comedy" crowd. Jennifer Jason Leigh as the hyper-sexual prostitute Tra-La-La steals almost every scene she's in.

Although the screenwriters had to re-do the ending as the true nature of the book's finale would have drawn an "X" rating, this is a must-see for those of us who can appreciate the realities of the street for those living the most marginal of an existance.

One other treat is an obese Ricky Lake as a dim-witted knocked-up teen whose family forces a wedding to the poor sap who sired her child as a way tho save their reputation (as if they ever had a good one to begin with).

The beating and "cruxafiction" of Stephen Lang as the latant homosexual is also an unforgetable cinematic moment.

Read Best Reviews of Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) Here

Over the summer I purchased and read Hubert Selby Jr.'s "Last Exit to Brooklyn". It was the first book I had read for pleasure since high school. I also only bought it because the film Requiem for a Dream was astonishing, and because it wasnt at that particular bookstore. Anywho, I read LETB in about a week, which is super fast for me, and was intrigued enough to go out and watch the film.

I had never heard of Uli Edel but was curious to see how well the book was illustrated through film. From the opening shot of the three military men walking through the dark streets to the Greeks to the factory to the strike office, things seemed to have been pulled straight from the book. If you have read the book you know how it can be sometimes quite difficult to read Selby's writing style, considering there are pages upon pages of text in all caps and run-on sentences up the wazoo, so a visual illustration really did a good job of bringing some confusing parts of the book to life.

Jennifer Jason Leigh gave a good performance as the infamous Tralala, Jerry Orbach was always refreshing to watch, but I think I liked the portrayal of Harry Black the best (I think it was Stephen Lang). As in the book, his "chapter", along with Tralala's, were the longest, and the two characters were also the most intertwined in the other stories, so they also got a majority of the screen time in the film. Oh, and Burt Young was well cast, too. He seems to thrive on the grumpy-caring-jerk-semi womanizer type character quite well.

I know others who have read the book or seen the movie have been put off by its unflattering portrait of the Brooklyn working class 60 years ago. Im only 22, and not the biggest history buff, so because of my little knowledge of the time I really cant form an opinion of how well it interprets the people and the places, or if much of it was dramatized, or if the stories told just represented a handful of the population in Brooklyn. But regradless, I enjoyed the less than perfect lifestyle and the struggles and sacrifices our characters endured to achieve their goals. I live near an upper middle class area, so lots of people take things for granted, and I think thats why Im drawn to these types of books and films.

But anyway, I liked this film; and I liked the book, too. Its not one of those films (or books) that you can watch or read everyday because the content strikes like a hammer and stays with you long after, kind of like Requiem, but I feel I am a better person for experiencing "Last Exit to Brooklyn".

Want Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) Discount?

STEVEN LANG and JENNIFER JASON LEIGH dominate this virtually picture-perfect view of Brooklyn circa 1950. A sad and moving mix of Union Dispute [Teamster strike}, confused sexual identity [identeties], anger and misplaced love.

Lang is excellent [more than that] as the love-torn Strike Captain totally oblivious of 'the nature of things' Jaosn-Leigh more than award worthy for her "Tral" perhaps the whore with the platinum heart? Totally oblivious of long-term goals living from sailer to sailer ...

Art/Set direction and design, wardrobe, etc spot on.

Highly worth the visit if you can "Father Knows Best" it ain't!

Could be fun to pair Jason-Leigh and Lang as "George & Martha" and watch the conflagration ........

{DVD is great]

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