Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Lenny is the story of the life and times of Lenny Bruce. Bruce is famously known for fighting against the idea of obscenity and what a performer can say on stage. Veteran director Bob Fosse seems an odd choice to direct this project considering his reputation was built on musicals. Expect black and white, lots of nudity, and an incredible of amount of music to drive the story forward.

The films actually looks phenomenal in b & w with each shot perfectly framing what is on screen. Fosse clearly knows how to get the look of a film, but can he make this a complete movie? The answer to that would be more or less yes he can.

The first half of the film chronicles the early years between Lenny (Dustin Hoffman) and he eventual wife Honey (Valerie Perrine). It jumps back and forth between a faux documentary featuring interviews of Lenny's inner circle and what was going on in his life. I'm not a fan of that style of storytelling, but it all seems to work without slowing down the film. Lenny takes a little while to get rolling, but it seems to find it's legs after Honey is jailed for possesion. Bruce is forced to take care of their daughter while trying to make ends meet emceeing at a strip club. A club owner sees him and his brand of humer and wants to make him a regular as a comedian.

His career begins to snowball until he starts getting noticed for all the wrong reasons. At that time in history, performers didn't use dirty language on stage. Bruce is using it to try and change the way people thought about the words themselves and was trying to make a point. Bruce was gifted with the way he was able to turn a phrase or idea around and present it in a new way. The film does delve into his performances with them interwoven into the second half.

Lenny ultimately works because of Dustin Hoffman. He is such the mannered actor who completely loses himself in the character. A lot of times you are still cognizant of who the actor is, but here you find yourself caught up in who Bruce really was and what he wanted. Fosse is very capable with the camera. You have to be able to appreciate the Fosse-style, which might strike some people as annoying. The first half drags a bit, but stick with it.

* Lenny ended up losing best picture at the 1975 Oscars to The Godfather pt. 2, but look at what else was nominated: Roman Polanski's Chinatown, Irwin Winkler's The Towering Inferno, and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation! Dustin Hoffman not only got beat out by Art Carney, but was up against Al Pacino, Albert Finney, and Jack Nicholson! You don't seen that kind of competition at the Academy Awards anymore.


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