Not Coming to a Theater Near You Two-Thousand Twelve In Review


Herbert Ross
USA, 1981

Pennies From Heaven

by Victoria Large


Really, the prospect of seeing Christopher Walken’s tap number in Pennies From Heaven should have been reason enough for me to catch up with this film long before now, never mind Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters’ striking Astaire/Rogers tribute, or director Herbert Ross’ stunning visuals, which include breathtaking live action recreations of paintings by Edward Hopper and Reginald Marsh. Pennies From Heaven is bleak in tone and imperfect in execution, but it’s also my kind of odd duck, a wildly ambitious film obsessed with the divide between life’s harsh realities and the sweet promises of pop music and of Hollywood. Films rarely step as far outside the box as this one does, but that’s why it’s often so exhilarating. I’m haunted by Jessica Harper’s wild-eyed lip-synching to “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie,” as she murderously clutches a pair of scissors, and Martin softly singing the title number with a noose around his neck. This is a tough film to shake, and one that I suspect I will revisit in the years to come.


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