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With: John Cassavetes, Peter Falk, Ned Beatty, William Hickey, M. Emmet Walsh
Written by: Elaine May
Directed by: Elaine May
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 105
Date: 12/21/1976

Mikey & Nicky (1977)

4 Stars (out of 4)

May Fools

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When their popular 1960s comedy team split, Mike Nichols andElaine May both turned to directing. Mike Nichols stumbled into a prolific,highly acclaimed, and chronically uninteresting career, while May achieved asuperior, underrated and prematurely truncated one, having only directed fourfilms.

May's third film Mikey & Nicky (1977) is a hugely poignant tale of two old friends, now gangsters, who have reached the end of the line. John Cassavetes plays Nick, a loser who has apparently embezzled money from the mob bosses. Peter Falk is Mike, who at first glance appears to be coming to Nick's aid. But really, he's working with a hitman (Ned Beatty), to wipe out the troublesome Nick.

The film takes place over the course of a night as the two friends go over old ground together, notably visiting Nick's mother's grave. The film has no obvious character arc, and only the dialogue leads us specifically and irrevocably to a foregone conclusion. Very carefully scripted, it sounds improvised and messy, like the thought process of real human beings.

It's also an angry film, devastatingly upset at the depth of human wickedness, and lashing out at it. This becomes a little clearer when one realizes that the title sounds quite a bit like "Mike Nichols." Though May has never really been a public persona, her split with Nichols was reportedly an unpleasant one. She must have been in a very dark period at this time because she did not pick up a camera again for another ten years, and then only for the megaflop Ishtar. May and Nichols eventually reunited when May wrote the screenplays for Nichols's films The Birdcage (1996) and Primary Colors (1998).

Still the impeccably played Mikey & Nicky moves with such certainty and glory that it emerges as an underrated masterpiece.

DVD Details: Home Vision Entertainment's beautiful new DVD comes with an interesting little featurette (about 15 minutes) on the restoration of the film. If you've ever been curious about how a DVD is made, check this out. We also get interviews with the film's producer, Michael Hausman, and its cinematographer, Victor J. Kemper, as well as those priceless liner notes by Rosenbaum.

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