Albert Brooks - Modern Romance (1981), 6/10

Brooks' performance really carries this one and results in a quality film. Of course the feelings of heartbreak, regret and shame are relatable in the writing as well. The humor is uncharacteristically relevant for a piece from the early eighties. Some of the greatest phone conversations ever filmed. There are moments of joy, sorrow and countless of palpable awkwardness, and they all feel strikingly real because they are aided by outstanding direction. Robert’s personality is charmingly sincere both in his love life and his interactions with the public; he is simultaneously satisfying and superbly frustrating to watch. Kathryn Harrold’s performance as Mary should be praised as well, she pulls off an incredibly difficult character with grace and that goes a very long way in the audience buying into not only Robert’s dual love and disinterest but also the ending and its clunky but charming humor. Bob Einstein’s role as the sports store clerk is not only tailor made for his talents but at a perfect place in the film. Seeing George Kennedy arrive was a bit heartbreaking but also wonderfully nostalgic. The anxious filmmaker role is pulled off wonderfully by James L Brooks as well, one wonders how much of a method acting experience that must be for someone who worked with a range of actors including Nicholson. Almost every scene in this film is charming in its own way even when it is frustrating, I catch myself smiling and ask myself why that is. Brooks’ charisma? His offbeat humor somehow reaching well beyond its time? Maybe a combination of the two mixed with some very intentional storytelling and presentation? The only thing that I can be sure of is that I will be rewatching this every now and then. I typically don’t do this but I rewatched this film four times in two days. Of course it’s a very easy movie to watch, but it is somehow just intoxicatingly agreeable. There are moments of relatability, but even while I spent countless moments cringing at Robert’s behavior, I can’t help but not only root for him, I almost want to grab him and tell him he’ll be okay. Stupid as all hell, but okay. It’s neurotic, it’s funny, it’s tragic as hell, and ultimately it’s painfully real yet romantic. This will be one that I hope I quote forever and bug my kids with someday. The simple question “If it’s not love, what is it?” inspires anything but simple answers and the exploration was more than worth watching.