Sunday, March 16, 2014

CINDERELLA LIBERTY (1973) - Mark Rydell

A movie that starts with an off-duty Navy sailor getting an boil on his ass removed, now that's a '70s movie! Now that's the Caan Man!!!!

Caan doesn't stay bedridden for long in Cinderella Liberty. Pretty soon he's hitting the bars and red light district of Seattle, hooking up with a prostitute (Marsha Mason) after hustling her services for free in a two-out-of-three billiards game. Turns out, working girl Mason has a TON of other Navy customers and a half-black teenage son at home. Before you can say "sailor with a heart of gold," Caan is palling around with the kid, offering to pay for his orthodontics with his Navy benefits and generally playing Mason's unwanted protector and de-facto husband. In other words, he's cutting heavily into her business model and just a teensy bit into her heart. Remember that boil on Caan's ass? That's what he becomes to this mother-son duo...a very benevolent pain in the butt.

If this all sounds too sweet for a '70s movie (or solid Caan movie), think again. It's written by the same writer who wrote the book The Last Detail (another classic Navy guys on shore leave '70s flick). It knows how to do sweet but melancholy/profane at the same time. The teenage kid (far left, above) is not some adorable moppet who takes a shine to Caan instantly. He's wary for much of the film, curses him out routinely. The last thing he wants is another just-passing-through military daddy. Kirk Calloway, props to you wherever you are for holding your own against the Caan Man.

Caan is great in this. He gives himself an "8" on the personal appraisal scale (as per Wikipedia). I might nudge that number a notch higher. Something I've learned about Caan: Anytime he takes on 'hood kids by himself in a game of basketball (The Gambler, this movie), you instantly know it's a good film. Eli Wallach, Burt Young and Bruno Kirby are also solid as always. Marsha Mason is quite good, though you kind of dislike her character for much of it (bad mother, etc.). For a working girl, she does let Caan get under the sheets with her gratis and never once complains about the thing on his ass. So, there's definitely some love there...of a peculiar '70s kind.

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