Sunday, January 22, 2012

#524. The End (1978)

Directed By: Burt Reynolds

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Dom DeLuise

Tag line: "A comedy for you and your next of kin"

Trivia:  This script was originally written for Woody Allen

Burt Reynolds both stars in and directs 1978's The End, a comedy about death, and though he does a fine job in the lead role, its the film's supporting cast that truly stands out. 

Sonny Lawson (Reynolds) is dying. Infected with a rare blood disease, his doctor (Norman Fell) says he has less than a year to live, but Sonny refuses to wait around for the Grim Reaper to arrive. To avoid the inevitable pain and suffering he's sure to endure, Sonny's decided to kill himself. His first attempt involves swallowing a bottle of pills, but it doesn't get the job done. Instead, when he comes to, Sonny finds he's been committed to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation. It's here he meets Marlon (Dom DeLuise), a fellow patient he enlists to help him end it all. Yet as each successive suicide attempt fizzles, Sonny slowly realizes that, though this days are numbered, he may just have a little more living to do before his time is up. 

Reynolds is solid as Sonny, and generates his fair share of laughs (In the opening scene, he tells the doctor he had no idea he was sick. “I thought I discovered some new way of losing weight.”, he says, “Throwing up”). But the moments from The End that will stick with you feature the supporting cast, many of whom appear in a single scene. Norman Fell is Sonny's low-key doctor, a man who only perks up when offering to remove Sonny's spleen. Sally Field is funny as Mary Ellen, the bubbly girlfriend, though she doesn't do much for Sonny's self esteem, claiming to have never once in her life experienced an orgasm. Two screen legends, Pat O'Brien and Myrna Loy, make a brief appearance as Sonny's slightly senile parents, and Kristy McNichol shines as Julie, Sonny's daughter and the only person in the world he feels he can trust. My two favorites, however, are a young Robby Benson as the priest who hears Sonny's last confession (when Sonny feels uneasy calling someone so much younger than himself "Father”, Benson suggests he instead use his first name, Dave, leading to the hilarious line “Bless me, Dave, for I have sinned”) and Dom DeLuise, Sonny's partner-in-crime and a man determined to help his new best friend “cross over” to the other side. 

Despite its bleak subject matter, The End benefits from a party-like atmosphere, as if Reynolds simply got together with a group of his closest pals and filmed the whole affair. Fortunately, the audience is let in on the fun, and a good time is definitely had by all.

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