Bitter, grey, and offering no chance of redemption for its characters, The Entertainer was a dour reflection of the angry, cynical sentiments that defined post-war Britain. Co-written and directed by John Osborne and Tony Richardson, two of the most eloquent Angry Young Men of the era, it was a repudiation of earlier films that portrayed entertainers and their industry as one long parade of sunshine and good will. Instead of a parade, The Entertainer was a funeral, and inherent in the film's depiction of dwindling glory was an indictment of Britain's dying prestige. The film also marked a turning point for Laurence Olivier, whose performance as Archie Rice was an effective departure from the romantic roles of his youth. His portrayal was thoroughly devastating: Rice's self-delusion, hypocrisy, misanthropy, and frank lack of talent make his titular label a cruel joke. In Olivier's brilliant performance, we see a mirror for the desperate arrogance and misplaced confidence of a wounded society. Through their unforgiving portrait of Rice and his surroundings, Osborne and Richardson leveled an attack at this society, picking at its wounds with savage accuracy. The Entertainer was one of their most successful collaborations, and it remains an accusatory reminder of a time that many would just as soon forget.
by Rebecca Flint Marx review