innocent_man: (drama)
[personal profile] innocent_man
City Slickers is an early-90s comedy starring Billy Crystal, but don't hold that against it. Crystal plays a man working for a radio station as a dude who sells airtime, and is entering his 40s and a serious mid-life crisis, actually bordering on depression. His two best friends have their own issues - Ed (Bruno Kirby) is finally married but is afraid of the commitment having a family implies, and Phil (Daniel Stern) is trapped in an emotionally abusive, loveless marriage to the boss' daughter.

Crystal's friends get him a birthday gift - two weeks driving cattle. He initially resists going, ostensibly because he promised his wife he'd go to Florida to see her parents, but she tells him that she'd rather he go away with his friends, as he's been kind of insufferable lately. He takes this about as well as could be expected, goes away, learns to drive cattle, and along the way he and his friends talk through what's going on and figure out that most of their issues are, yes, their issues, and while they aren't nothing, they also aren't insurmountable. Jack Palance, in his Oscar-winning role as the trail boss, helps Crystal along with this.

I really enjoy this movie, largely because the friendship between Crystal, Kirby and Stern is so well-realized. Crystal is the headliner, yeah, and the story is from his perspective, but his buddies are just as well-developed and real. Both of them have scenes that show their vulnerability and fears and breaking points. Kirby, especially, describing his best/worst day, chokes me up a little, because it sheds so much light on why he's so afraid to become a father.

I'm not a huge Billy Crystal fan, but I like that his annoying humor is played as exactly that - annoying, quirky, but ultimately a part of why his friends like him. And he's a good man - he's doggedly faithful to his wife, and when he sees people in trouble he stands up. I really don't like the way his wife treats him - as someone who copes with depression, it's hard to be sliding into feeling like shit and have someone close to you tell you to, effectively, suck it up. I also like the supporting cast, though I kind of think Helen Slater's character was wasted (pretty much just put in there to give Stern a rebound). I also really like that the "city guys in the country" schtick wasn't milked to death, nor were the Colorado natives portrayed as complete rubes.

The marketing on the movie was misleading - it's not really so much "fish out of water" comedy as "man finding himself" comedy, which I think I like better.

Oh, and, though I didn't appreciate it when I first saw the movie (sometime in early 90s), I really like that Stern's rule on the "what's your best day" game was, "And you can't do when you're kids were born, that's too easy." It's a throwaway line, but as a dad, it's totally appropriate.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Clash of the Titans


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