Sunday, December 11, 2005

STAY HUNGRY (1976) - Bob Rafelson

I’ve had it up to here with Bob Rafelson. I’m talkin’ Blood and Wine, the atrociously bad Man Trouble…pretty much everything but his first film for The Monkees, Head. All have been disappointments. Now add Stay Hungry to that list.
Why do I bother? It’s all Jack Nicholson’s fault.
Rafelson’s second film, Five Easy Pieces, is firmly planted in my top ten movies of all time. I can watch that sucker over and over again, any day of the week. Since high school, when I first saw it, I’ve been watching every other Rafelson flick that would come my way, hoping to rediscover that cinematic high that was FEP the first time around. There are some decent parts in Marvin Gardens, The Postman Always Rings Twice remake, and even Mountains of the Moon. But in hindsight, I don’t think much of it was the direction. It was either the script or Nicholson delivering the goods.
Well, there’s not much magic in Stay Hungry…just a lot of bodybuilding. Jeff Bridges plays an aimless heir to a Southern fortune tasked with the assignment of buying out a local Birmingham gym so that he can sell it back to a group of rich developers as his father would've wanted. Except Bridges starts to enjoy slumming it around the gym once he meets the perky Sally Field and resident lunk-head Arnold Schwarzenegger (in one of his first roles). Much to the developers' chagrin, he just continues slumming it and slumming it and slumming it…and that’s about it.
There’s a funny scene with R.G. Armstrong (a Peckinpah stalwart) wearing a bad toupee, doing amyl nitrate poppers, and hurling 50 pound weights at Bridges as he ducks and covers, and an even funnier scene with a bunch of potential Mister Universes running around the Birmingham streets in nothing other than their speedos. Other than that, Stay Hungry is lean on entertainment. It’s just too laid back for its own good.

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