As the day draws to a close, I’m going to recommend one final film.
It’s not, by any means, a perfect film. In fact, it’s pretty damn imperfect. It’s a film that occasionally tries too hard to be profound. It’s based on a play and it never quite escapes its theatrical origins. What was undoubtedly exciting on the stage, drags a bit on the screen. It’s a fairly obscure film. I just happened to catch it on This TV a month ago and the main reason that I watched it was because of the cast.
But no matter! I still think you should watch this film if you get a chance.
The name of that film is Fool For Love.
First released in 1985 and based on a play by Sam Shepard, Fool For Love takes place over the course of one long night at a motel in the Southwest. Staying at the motel is May (Kim Basinger), who is hoping to escape from her past. Not eager to allow her to escape is her former lover, Eddie (Sam Shepard). An aging cowboy, Eddie shows up at the motel and tries to convince May to return with him to his ranch. As they argue, clues are dropped to the terrible secret that haunts their past. Martin (Randy Quaid), a buffoonish but well-meaning “gentleman caller,” shows up to take May on a date and finds himself sucked into the drama between her and Eddie.
Meanwhile, on the edge of every scene, there’s the Old Man (Harry Dean Stanton). The Old Man watches Eddie and May and offers up his own frequently sarcastic commentary. It becomes obvious that he not only knows about the secret in their past but that he’s determined that they not get together. Is the Old Man really there or is he just a figment of everyone’s imagination or is he something else all together?
As I said earlier, the film never quite escapes its theatrical origins. As well, while Shepard and Kim Basinger both give authentic and charismatic performance, they don’t quite have the right romantic chemistry to really convince us that Eddie would chase May all the way to that isolated motel. It’s hard not to feel that if May had been played by Shepard’s then-partner Jessica Lange or his Right Stuff co-star, Barbara Hershey, the film would have worked better.
And yet, even if it never comes together as a whole, Fool For Love is a film that should be seen just for its display of individual talent. Of the film’s five main creative forces, only Kim Basinger is still with us. Director Robert Altman died in 2006 while Sam Shepard and Harry Dean Stanton both passed away in 2017. While Randy Quaid is still alive, it’s doubtful he’ll ever again get the type of roles that earlier established him as one of America’s best character actors. Whenever I read another snarky article about Quaid hiding out in Vermont and ranting about the “star whackers,” I can’t help but sadly think about the perfect performances that Quaid used to regularly give in imperfect films like this one.
So, definitely track down Fool For Love. Watch it and pay a little tribute to all of the wonderful talent that we’ve lost over the last 10 or so years. Watch it for Robert Altman’s ability to turn kitsch into art. Watch it for the rugged individualism of Sam Shepard and the once-empathetic eccentricity of Randy Quaid. Watch it for Harry Dean Stanton, the legendary actor who, more than any other performer, seemed to epitomize the southwest and Americana.
Watch it and spare a little thought for all of them.