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Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
USA 1982
Directed by Robert Altman
Running time 110 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars


At first it appears that Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean has a double opening but then you realize that you are looking at two sets of events 20 years apart but that so little has changed that it’s hard to tell one from the other.

With the help of David Gropman's brilliant stage set, which used two identical dime stores separated by a two-way mirror, Altman switches back and forth between present and past to create an intriguing portrait of a group of women who are having a 20-year reunion of their James Dean fan club in their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Texas hometown of McCarthy in 1975.  As the sun beats down on the crummy, fly-blown dimestore which was their hangout they gradually confront who they are today and who they dreamt of being in their youth,

Altman directed the stage version of the play by Ed Graczyk on Broadway with the same cast led by Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black (and also featuring a smaller role for Kathy Bates) and this familiarity no doubt goes a long way to explaining why the film works so well. Cher surprised everyone with her acting chops and she continued to impress throughout the 80s with films such as Silkwood (1983) and The Mask (1985) but all the performances are excellent not least of which that of Sudie Bond as the God-fearin’ owner of the five-and-dime store, whilst Sandy Dennis does her neurotic female thing with extraordinary effect.

Although the revelations come too easily in the final 20 minutes the combination of Graczyk’s text, the performances and Altman’s outstanding staging make this a real treat for anyone who enjoys top drawer onscreen theatre.

 

 

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