The story of the changes encountered by people when gambling is legalized in Atlantic City. Lancaster stars as a bodyguard to an aging beauty queen. — Genre: Feature Film-Drama — Rating: R — Release Date: 1-MAR-2004 — Media Ty... more »pe: DVD« less
Timothy W. (BASEBALLNUT) from SELLERSBURG, IN Reviewed on 10/10/2009...
True classic, the typical Louis Malle formula works, desperate characters in desperate situations in a gritty format. You cannot beat the casting of Susan Sarandon and Burt Lancaster. Highly recommended, the way movies are suppose to be made. 10 of 10 for the directing of Louis Malle, a cinematic legend.
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 09/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Europeans have always delighted in introducing America to itself. (I am thinking of de Tocqueville and Nabokov.) There is something very valuable about seeing ourselves through the eyes of others. In Atlantic City, assumptions about the American way of life, the American dream and the America reality, circa 1978, are examined through the artistry of master French film director, Louis Malle (Murmur of the Heart (1971), Pretty Baby (1978), Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987), etc.)The film begins with a shot of Sallie Matthews (Susan Sarandon at 34) at the kitchen sink of her apartment squeezing lemons and rubbing them on her arms, her neck, her face as Lou Pasco (Burt Lancaster at 68) watches unbeknownst to her from across the way, the window of his apartment looking into hers. She works at a clam bar in a casino on the boardwalk, which is why she smells like fish, which is why she is squeezing lemon on herself to get rid of the smell. She is taking classes to be a blackjack dealer. Her dream is to go to Monaco and deal blackjack in one of resort casinos and perhaps catch a glimpse of Princess Grace. She listens to French tapes and achieves...an amusing accent. He is a has-been who never was, a pathetic old numbers runner well past any dream of his prime, pretending to be a "fancy man" as he picks up a few extra bucks waiting on an invalid woman.Enter a hippy couple with all their belongings on their backs. It turns out that he is Sallie's estranged husband, a deceitful little guy who has found a bag of cocaine that he intends to cut and sell; and she is Sallie's not too bright sister, very pregnant. They need a place to stay and have the gall to impose on her.Both Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances, as was director Louis Malle and writer John Guare for his script. But none of them won. This was the year of On Golden Pond with Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn taking the Oscars while Warren Beatty won Best Director for Reds. (Best film was Chariots of Fire with Colin Welland winning the Oscar for his original screenplay.) Nonetheless, Lancaster and Sarandon are outstanding, and they are both beautifully directed by Malle. Lancaster in particular demonstrated that at age 68 he could still fill up the screen with his sometimes larger than life presence. The familiar flamboyance and sheer physical energy that he displayed in so many films, e.g., Come Back, Little Sheba (1952), From Here to Eternity (1953), The Rose Tattoo (1955), Elmer Gantry (1960), to name four of my favorites, are here properly subdued. He moves slowly and is easily winded. He is a sad, cowardly old man whom Malle, to our delight, will miraculously transform.Sarandon's performance is also one of her best, on a par with, or even better than her work in Thelma and Louise (1991) for which she was also nominated for Best Actress and also did not win. She is an actress with "legs" (this is a pun and an allusion to an inside joke about her famous other attributes-nicely displayed in Pretty Baby--over which perhaps too much fuss has already been made!)--an actress with "legs," as in a fine wine that will only get better with age. She, like Goldie Hawn, Catherine Deneuve and a few others, have the gift of looking as good (or better) at fifty as they did at thirty.Louis Malle films are characterized by a tolerance of human differences, a deep psychological understanding, a gentle touch and an overriding sense of humanity. Atlantic City is no exception. What Malle is aiming at here is redemption. He wants to show how this pathetic old man finds self-respect (in an ironic way) and how the clam bar waitress might be liberated. But he also wants to say something about America, and he uses Atlantic City, New Jersey--the "lungs of Philadelphia," the mafia's playground, the New Yorker's escape, a slum by the sea "saved" (actually further exploited) by the influx of legalized gambling in the seventies--as his symbol. He begins with decadence and ends with renewal and triumph, and as usual, somewhere along the way, achieves something akin to the quality of myth. Even though he emphasizes the tawdry and the commonplace: the untalented trio singing off key, the slums semi-circling the casinos where Lou sells numbers, the boarded-up buildings, the sad, tiny apartments about to be torn down, Robert Goulet as a cheap Vegas-style lounge act, etc., in the end we feel that it's not so bad after all.I should also mention Kate Reid who played Grace, the invalid, ex-beauty queen widow of a mobster, who orders Lou about. She does a great job. Her character too will be transformed.If the late, great Louis Malle was running the world the gross transgressors would surely get theirs and the rest of us would find forgiveness for our sins, and renewal."
Portrait of an Old Lion and a Tired City
Robert Morris | Dallas, Texas | 03/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For whatever reasons, this film never has received the recognition and appreciation I think it deserves. It was directed by Louis Malle and stars Burt Lancaster as Lou. (In Atlantic City, first names are all you need to know about those around you.) Malle carefully develops three different story lines: Lou's long-term affair with Grace (Kate Reid), a mobster's widow; Lou's relationship with Sally (Susan Sarandon) to whom he feels both a paternal and romantic attraction; and his symbiotic relationship with Atlantic City. Both he and the city seem long past their prime. During the course of the film, Sally also becomes a widow. Credit Malle and his excellent cast as well as cinematographer Richard Ciupka for creating and then sustaining an atmosphere of deterioration and menace. Special note should also be made of John Guare's screenplay. He, Malle, Lancaster, Sarandon, and the film were all nominated for an Academy Award. (FYI, The respective winners in 1980 were Bo Goldman for Melvin and Howard, Robert Redford for Ordinary People, Robert De Niro for Raging Bull, Sissy Spacek for Coal Miner's Daughter, and Ordinary People.) Toward the end of his career, Lancaster accepted a series of roles (including this one) which enabled him to explore and reveal subtle nuances of character and personality which much earlier roles neither permitted nor required. My own opinion is that his performance as Lou is his greatest achievement as an actor. However, in certain respects, Atlantic City itself really is the dominant character. I recall brief visits to it in the 1970s. The city then bore little resemblance to what it has since become, at least in the casino area. Of course the city then bore little resemblance, also, to the elegant seaside resort it once was 75 years earlier. My guess (only a guess) is that Malle's work in this film -- especially his establishment and enrichment of precisely appropriate tone and atmosphere -- had a significant influence on later films such as House of Games (1987), Miller's Crossing (1990), Billy Bathgate (1991), Road to Perdition (2002), and The Cooler (2003). As I said, just a guess. One final point: I think it is a disgrace that the so-called "special features" provided with the DVD version are limited to "Theatrical trailer(s)" and "Widescreen anamorphic format.""
City of dreams.
Robert Morris | 07/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A thorough pleasure. First and foremost, *Atlantic City* is about Burt Lancaster -- a more congenial subject than most, to be sure. The movie caters to sentimental feelings toward the actor and by extension his era, and there's nothing wrong with that. Lancaster's Lou tells a new acquaintance, a scuzzy young drug-dealer, all about the Good Old Days, back when they danced the "Floogie" and the "Floy Floy". Dreamily, he says, "Atlantic City was something in those days", and adds a sublime codicil: "The Atlantic OCEAN was something in those days." But playwright John Guare makes a point of infusing Lou with a dose of cynicism that acts as a healthy balance against his Old-Man sentimental nostalgia. He gripes about the "new" Atlantic City, with its Howard Johnson casinos and gentrified new boardwalk. "Too wholesome," he says with disdain. The old, seedy Atlantic City was a better match for old, seedy Lou, who is currently a penny-ante numbers runner, operating in the poor black neighborhoods, taking 50-cent bets. He lives alone in old apartment that's on schedule for demolition. His fellow tenants include a 1940's-era beauty queen (Kate Reid, who was the epileptic grouch in *The Andromeda Strain*), now widowed, who he once served as bodyguard and still takes care of (he even walks her poodle, since she's confined by hypochondria to her room) . . . and an aspiring blackjack dealer played by Susan Sarandon. The latter turns out to be the ex-wife of the scuzzy drug-dealer, and Lou ends up enmeshed in a petty Mob underworld in which -- despite his basic decrepitude -- he stands out as a sort of old-fashioned Man of the World. His involvement with this new breed of thugs culminates in his first "hit". (Don't worry; the two hoods he offs won't be missed.) Lou, who's never really been much of a criminal, finally earns his stripes, and the joy he exhibits in the aftermath should bring a smile to anybody's face. Perhaps *Atlantic City* should be shown to potential suicides: the movie tells us with great charm and wit that life is never over till it's over, and that there's no age-limit for finding self-respect. Technically speaking, old pro Louis Malle lets the city proclaim the film's themes, those being Changing Times, Old-and-New, and Regeneration. The many shots of simultaenous demolition and construction provide the appropriate visual backdrop."
The Frenchmans American Masterpiece
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 04/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Louis Malle's films often have a small theatre intimacy to them. Malle is interested in drawing real life portraits of real life characters in their real life settings. Pretty Baby was the film that immediately preceded this one and was set in 1917 New Orleans and also starred Susan Sarandon. That film was as much a study of a time and a place as it was of the characters involved & Atlantic City is similar in scope but both the portrait of the characters and their city is much more complete. In the Atlantic City of 1980 the city is past its heyday and has not yet been rebuilt. There is the past city preserved and embodied by Lancaster & there is the new Atlantic City just on the horizon represented by the wide eyed and dreaming Sarandon. Those two main characters occupy the same building but they share a space only in the most general sense as each inhabits their own version of the city. Lancaster is man who never really had a prime and has sustained himself with his lively imagination which has preserved a kind of childish readiness in him. In his real life he has always fled when things got heated up and so he has never really begun to live, and late in life a growing regret as well as his glimpses of Sarandon through her apartment window has sparked that youth into action. This time he will seize his moments and make the most of them. And he gets his opportunity. Sarandon has her sites set on self improvement. She listens to opera, teaches herself French and dreams of a future dealing cards in Monaco. Her dreams have so far come to nothing and she is just at that point where a stroke of luck could mean the difference between finally beginning to live and resigning herself to her own private and quiet desperation. Lancaster & Sarandon are magic together, and though the film is sometimes awkward like a rehearsal, that awkwardness is part of the small theatre charm. Lancaster nails every line and every scene like the master that he is, Sarandon is the novice who hits and misses but she has some immeasurable and indefinable inner quality, she virtually glows with it, that makes her infinitely watchable and when she hits she knocks you over. Lancaster dreaming of the past and Sarandon dreaming of the future,and neither occupying the present. When Lancaster finally has his moment though, and his dream is realized there is no one left to share it with, just him smiling alone. And Sarandon gets her break too and finally makes her getaway in a stolen car driving away alone into some as yet undefined future w/ drug money tucked in her pocket, she too smiling to herself, still eager to learn French. Solitary dreamers to the end despite the decay all around.
This movie along with a few others released in late 70's(Ashby's Being There) and early eighties(Lumet's Verdict) were like a last few great gasps when movies were still interested in real life and offered a genuine look at it."
Dennis Petticoffer | Orange, CA United States | 01/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Atlantic City" is one of Louis Malle's finest films. It is an engaging picture from beginning to end, portraying the annihilation of America's past. This is the result not only of Malle's vibrant direction, but also of a lively screenplay (by John Guare), a playful soundtrack (by Michel LeGrand), and polished performances by Susan Sarandon, Burt Lancaster and a cast of talented supporting players.
Sarandon plays an ambitious working girl who labors in a clam bar by day and studies to be a croupier at night. It's her desire to graduate from the gambling parlors of Atlantic City to the more prestigious casinos of Monte Carlo. Lancaster portrays an old man who shares an apartment in the same condemned building as Sarandon. He is rooted in the romantic past, at a time when gambling provided illegal thrills and Atlantic City was devoid of its tawdry modern gloss. The lives of these two people converge on the Boardwalk, where they share a tangle of bizarre adventures involving a variety of fascinating friends and strangers.
The unusual relationships which develop between the young and old characters mirror the atmospheric ambivalence of Atlantic City, where vintage architecture stands side by side with sterile steel modernity. Malle emphasizes the contrast through the use of intriguing images. Few films feature such a memorable sequence of opening scenes. As the credits roll, viewers witness the destruction of a massive old building. It crumbles in slow motion, to the accompaniment of a soundtrack punctuated by the beat of jackhammers and wrecking balls. This shot fades to the sight of Sarandon slicing lemons at an open window. While Lancaster peeps from an adjacent apartment, the object of his gaze bathes her upper body with lemon juice. One "juicy" scene succeeds another in "Atlantic City." The outrageous interplay of beauty and decay, the silly and the serious, contribute to an exotically humorous, intriguing plot. Few films are as intelligent or entertaining."