Bright Lights, Big City

"OK"

Bright Lights, Big City Review


As a college student hoping for a career in the "glamorous world of magazine publishing" back in the '80s, I was captivated by Jay McInerney's 1984 novel Bright Lights, Big City, which depicts that world but tears away most of the glamour. Still, it made New York seem tremendously exciting.

The 1988 cinematic version doesn't quite measure up. McInerney may have aspired to be the F. Scott Fitzgerald of his time, the movie suffers from the same fate as the Robert Redford version of The Great Gatsby: miscasting.

Credit Michael J. Fox for at least trying. Eager to break away from his Marty McFly and Alex P. Keaton fame, which was at its peak at the time, he took on the role of irascible, drug-addled Jamie Conway and did what he could, but it proved impossible to shake Alex. (He did better a year later in Casualties of War.) He simply doesn't look like he belongs. The required darkness isn't there.

Kansas native Jamie has arrived in New York to take a fact-checking job at a magazine very much like The New Yorker. His lovely wife (Phoebe Cates) was in tow, but with a sexy modeling career in full bloom, she's dumped him for the fast lane. Cocaine, very much a part of the New York social scene at the time, and booze are Jamie's solace, and he's on a self-destructive binge facilitated by his bar buddy Tad Allagash (Kiefer Sutherland) that's endangering his job. Add in the grief Jamie still feels over the death of his mother (Dianne Wiest, in flashbacks) a year earlier, and it's official: Jamie's a mess.

We ride along on Jamie's downward spiral, and truth be told, nothing much happens other than a series of increasingly mortifying benders. The movie's best moments come when the magazine's ancient and drunken fiction editor Alex Hardy (a great Jason Robards) takes Jamie out for lunch and basically kills any last shred of hope that the career Jamie has chosen will someday pay off. Also keep an eye out for a very young Alec Mapa as a sarcastic co-worker who adds just a bit of comic relief. Fox's real-life wife Tracy Pollan also shows up as a potential love interest who may be able to pull Jamie out of his potentially suicidal funk.

While the Jamie of the book elicits sympathy, Fox's Jamie ends up looking like an irresponsible mess whose unhappiness may be real but is no more tragic than anyone else's. No case is built for his depths of despair, and you can't help but hope that Cher will wander over from Moonstruck, slap him across the face, and tell him to "snap out of it." You'll appreciate Bright Lights, Big City for its time-capsule qualities (the '80s soundtrack is bitchin'), but that's about it.

Bright ties, big hair.



Bright Lights, Big City

Facts and Figures

Run time: 107 mins

In Theaters: Friday 1st April 1988

Distributed by: MGM Home Entertainment

Production compaines: United Artists, Mirage Enterprises

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Fresh: 11 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 5.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Sydney Pollock, Mark Rosenberg

Starring: Michael J. Fox as Jamie Conway, as Tad Allagash, as Amanda, as Drunken Writer/Mr. Hardy, as Mother

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.