Tag Archives: Irvin Kershner

Up the Sandbox (1972)

up the sandbox 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Housewife has secret fantasies.

Margaret (Barbra Streisand) is a neglected housewife taking care of her two children while her husband Paul (David Selby) busily works on his novel and thesis. She lives in a rundown New York apartment that seems to have bugs crawling from everywhere. Her nagging mother (Jane Hoffman) pressures her to move back with them to the suburbs, but she enjoys the excitement and independence of city life over lily white suburbia, so she resists. Now she finds that she is pregnant with her third child and this along with the other stresses causes her to slip into secret fantasies that become more and more outlandish.

This film didn’t do well upon its initial release and is a bit forgotten, but deserves a look simply for its unique and memorable fantasy segments. The scene where she joins a black militant group that gets inside the Statue of Liberty and wires it with explosives is pretty good as is the part at a party where her stomach suddenly balloons out as if she is pregnant and when she pushes it in it makes her breasts larger. The scene where she meets a Fidel Castro-like dictator who takes off his shirt to expose that he has female breasts is funny and the finale that takes place inside an abortion clinic is interesting. The best though is when she is captured by an African tribe of topless women. The shot of their grossly overweight leader whose gigantic, sagging breasts seem to overlap her entire body ends up being the film’s most lasting image.

Hoffman is hilarious and a perfect caricature of a meddling mother of adult children. The part where Margaret fantasies about stuffing her mother’s face into an anniversary cake and then the two roll around on the floor where Margaret then punches her in the face had me laughing-out-loud.

Paul Zindel’s script nicely balances the fantasy with the gritty reality of urban living. It also envelopes the feminist issues with the social upheaval of the times and the speech that Margaret gives about women needing to be less like men and more like themselves is excellent.

Director Irvin Kerschner makes fine use of the New York locales giving the viewer an eclectic taste of its crowded neighborhoods and street culture as well as its epic skyline. I loved the cinema vertite style that has a sophisticated and trendy feel.

Streisand herself seems to be having a lot of fun and purportedly this is her favorite out of all the films that she has done. This was just before she went through her frizzy hair phase and the long straight style that she has here I feel makes her look sexy.

The pace is unusual especially for a comedy in that it isn’t frantic and does not have any quick edits. Instead the set-ups are quite slow and seem at times to be almost dramatic before throwing in a surprise punchline. Personally I liked this approach, but the unconventional style might have proved confusing to certain audience members who didn’t know what genre to place it in and may have been the reason for the poor box office returns, which is shame as the production overall is excellent and intriguing.

up the sandbox 1

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Irvin Kerschner

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964)

the luck of ginger coffey

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He needs a job.

Ginger Coffey (Robert Shaw) is a middle-aged man living in Montreal whose dreams and ambitions far outweigh his grim predicament. He moves from one low paying job to another convinced that his lot in life will improve. His wife Vera (Mary Ure) decides to leave him and Ginger tries to win her back while juggling two jobs and hoping to get a promotion in one that never seems to come.

As a vivid look at the daily lives of the everyday working class this film hits a solid bullseye. The conversations between the co-workers and the monotonous and sometimes demeaning job interview process and Ginger’s on-going arguments with his wife and daughter are all true to form. There is no pretension and director Irvin Kershner keeps everything at a bare-bones minimum giving it almost a documentary style and making the viewer feel immersed in the bleak environment. The outdoor shots of the city are unexciting and cinematically unappealing, but help reflect the grim level. Watching Ginger get kicked out of his apartment and have to carry what is left of his belongings and then place them on the outside sidewalk while he goes in to visit his daughter in her school is quietly powerful.

Robert Shaw is excellent. This is a man who had by all accounts had a very dominating and proud personality in real-life and usually played characters with the same traits, so seeing him play against type and succeed is interesting. What is really effective is that he makes the character very human and likable despite his constant goof-ups, which keeps the viewer compelled to his situation.

Ure, who at the time was married to Shaw in real-life, gives an equally outstanding performance. Her perplexed facial expressions are perfect and the fact that we see her character grow and become more confident is good.

I also must mention Liam Redmond as Ginger’s cantankerous boss, who is nicknamed by his employees as ‘Hitler’. Ginger’s rushed job interview that he has with him is one of the film’s highpoints as is the moment when Ginger dashes away from him when he is caught making a personal phone call.

The only real complaint I have with the film is the ending, which is for the most part non-existent. I have seen vague wide-open endings in my movie viewing lifetime, but this thing is a cop-out and really boring one at that. I think when a viewer has spent nearly two hours empathizing with his difficult  and precarious situation that they deserve some sort of finality, or at least a hint of what became of him and whether he ever did find that ‘luck’ that he was so convinced was out there.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 21, 1964

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Irvin Kershner

Studio: Continental Distributing

Available: YouTube