Combustible Celluloid
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With: Talia Shire, Richard Jordan, Keith Carradine, John Belushi, John Houseman, Buck Henry, Nina Jordan, Gerrit Graham, P. J. Soles, Bethel Leslie, Joan Hotchkis, William Bassett, Murphy Dunne
Written by: Paul Schrader, Leonard Schrader
Directed by: Joan Tewkesbury
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 103
Date: 04/13/1979

Old Boyfriends (1979)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Katz Meow

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I've been wanting to see Old Boyfriends since I read Bob Woodward's superb John Belushi biography Wired back in college. Now that Kino Lorber has released it on Blu-ray, I'm satisfied at having checked off the seventh of seven Belushi feature films, but that's about the only thing that's satisfying. Belushi himself, in his supporting role, is terrific and charming as usual, getting to sing "Jailhouse Rock" on stage (Murphy Dunne, from the Blues Brothers, plays keyboard). He effortlessly pulls off a dramatic role, and — who knows? — maybe he could have had a career like Bill Murray's, had he lived.

But otherwise the movie is a mopey, dry soap opera about a depressed psychologist, Dianne Cruise (Talia Shire), who goes on a quest to re-visit three old boyfriends. Besides Eric Katz (Belushi), another is her college boyfriend, filmmaker Jeff (Richard Jordan) and the third is Lewis Van Til, whom she knew in grade school, but who has died in Vietnam. Instead she meets his younger brother Wayne (Keith Carradine). And there's a lot of talk. John Houseman, Buck Henry, and P.J. Soles co-star.

It was co-written by Paul Schrader, who gets a little credit for at least trying something from a woman's point of view, but the work doesn't really seem to have a point; his usual spiritual suffering doesn't translate here. Joan Tewkesbury, who was known for her Nashville screenplay, makes her directing debut; after this she retreated into television. On the Blu-ray, Tewkesbury provides a commentary track here with filmmaker Douglas Hosdale, and there's a second track by film historian and critic Peter Tonguette, as well as trailers.

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