Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Film Reviews

Review: Lifeguard

[Originally published in Movietone News 51, August 1976]

Lifeguard belongs to that elect, if scarcely elite, class of film fondly designated “the nice little movie.” It would be a poor summer indeed that didn’t yield one or two specimens of this type (which I say rhetorically since it is a miserable movie summer but there’s Lifeguard anyway)—not that its modest feeling for decent folks of no particular distinction getting on with their lives as best they can would be out of season at any time. The storyline isn’t much; its cinematic narration, still less so. But it’s a friendly movie that manages to be ingratiating without flashing too bright a smile or scuffing its soles ostentatiously in the sand. Watching it, you like the people and expect to remember them—looks, stances, tones of voice—like a pleasant vacation in years to come.

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Posted in: Film Reviews

Review: The Runner Stumbles

[Originally published in Movietone News 64-65, March 1980]

Though The Runner Stumbles fails to grasp what it reaches for, it offers some surprisingly telling moments in its humble look at the crisis of faith versus self-interest. The weight of the film is on the shoulders of Dick Van Dyke as a maverick priest exiled to a tiny rural parish, where his intellectual companionship with a young nun sent to teach in the parish school gradually stirs other feelings as well. Van Dyke’s uneven performance, often brilliant, just as often abysmally ragged, creates many of the problems in the film. Father Rivard says several times, for example, that Sister Rita’s presence renewed his faith and enthusiasm; but we never see this. In fact, it seems as if her appearance in Solona—a place where good people keep getting “stuck,” much as in John C. Fogarty’s Lodi—only intensifies his brooding by causing another problem for him to deal with, her sweetness-and-light approach proving insufficient to draw him off the darker side of human experience.

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