By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: He’s a compulsive liar.
Cletus (Treat Williams) is a compulsive liar although he says they are simply ‘fabrications’ and tells them because it is his sincere belief that people don’t want to hear the truth and the lies are much more interesting. He gets a job at a welfare agency and gets involved with a young boy named Jeorge (Gabriel Macht) and trying to return him to his mother. The task turns into an uphill battle as the mother is nowhere to be found and relies heavily on Cletus’ lies to get him out of jam after jam. Whenever he does gets caught in one of his ‘fabrications’ he will always say ‘why would I ever lie about a thing like that?’ which quickly becomes the film’s catchphrase.
This goofy movie, which has never been released on DVD or VHS and had only a limited run during its initial release in August of 1980, seems unable to figure out what it wants to be. It starts out as a weird character study before moving into a quirky comedy and then ultimately devolving into a sudsy soap opera. It’s unique for being filmed on-location in Spokane, Washington and even opens with a roaming, bird’s eye view of the city’s skyline, which has to be both a first and last.
The supporting female cast is the film’s biggest weakness as the characters are poorly written and defined. Valerie Curtain, who plays Cletus’ boss, decides to hire him for the job despite the fact that he clearly says some outrageous lies during the interview. When she becomes aware that he may be doing something improper in regards to the adoption process, she threatens him with legal action, so then Cletus pretends to romance her, which is so corny that it is an insult to any woman that the female character here could ever fall for it. He then meets Kay (Lisa Eichhorn) who after only knowing him for a few minutes invites him back to her place for sex, which even for the swinging ‘70’s seems outrageously forward and reckless. Then later when she no longer wants to go out with him because she’s not into any type of serious relationship Cletus advises her that he is ‘in love’ with her even though he’s only known her for a few days and like a hypnotist snapping his fingers this tacky line is somehow enough to get her to make a 180 degree turn and agree to move in with him.
The film also suffers from some very shallow logic. For instance Cletus is told that the boy’s mother may be in either Boston or Philadelphia, so using that little information he decides to take a trip to both cities in order to ‘search’ for her, which makes me wonder how was he planning to do that. Will he knock on every door in each metropolis until someone with her name finally answers? I also thought that having the woman he is dating turn out to magically be the mother he is searching for and that she was simply living under a different name was too much of a cutesy coincidence and put this whole thing in the category of a fluffy TV-movie if even that.
Williams manages to play the title role well enough that he keeps it watchable and even somewhat likable. The real scene stealer though is Macht in his film debut who goes by the name Gabriel Swann here. The kid is really adorable and his scenes with Williams are the best moments in the film.
The supporting cast is interesting, but essentially wasted although Jocelyn Brand (Marlon’s sister) has an amusing moment at the end. Severn Darden is good too as Cletus’ psychiatrist who does crossword puzzles while listening to his patients and then panics when he thinks one of them has jumped out the window. There is also a moment in the film where B.J. Thomas sings a song called ‘Me, You and You’, but unlike ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’, which was famously done in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid this song is not memorable and does not help the film at all.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: August 8, 1980
Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes
Director: Larry Peerce
Available: None at this time.