Monday, March 10, 2014

BRIAN'S SONG (1971) - Buzz Kulik

I'd never seen this made-for-TV movie--one for which earned Caan an Emmy nomination--and was expecting a based-on-a-true-story sports hero schmaltzfest. Surprise of surprises, Brian's Song was actually an enjoyable flick and not quite as manipulative as you might think. Caan plays white running back Brian Piccolo (with Southernish accent) to Billy Dee Williams' Gale Sayers (sans Lando Calrissian moustache). The two share a playful rivalry (lots of pranks involving mashed potatoes, joshing usage of the N-word), a budding friendship which serves them well first when Sayers becomes injured and later when Piccolo develops a tumor on his lung.

For a TV movie of its time, Brian's Song is surprisingly progressive about race. When Caan comes down with the Big C, neither he nor the director veer too heavily into heartstrings tugging mode. That said, Caan's deathbed scene definitely warrants a few Terms of Endearment-worthy tears.

Side Note: Is it just me, or has Caan made himself a nice little career out of playing the sick and injured? For a "man of action," some of his biggest roles see him confined to a bed for a good portion of the film...Brian's Song, The Killer Elite and, of course, Misery. What is it about James Caan that makes us enjoy seeing him suffer so? Feel free to discuss...

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