Bright Lights, Big City (1988)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Addiction Drama, Urban Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 1, 1988 (USA)  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - Japan, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Michael Costello

James Bridges' adaptation of Jay McInerney's amusing satire of downtown N.Y.C. in the '80s goes seriously awry in stripping out the book's comic tone and in the miscasting of Michael J. Fox as the protagonist. "In the dark night of the soul," as F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "it's always three a.m." Unfortunately, despite his best efforts to portray the depths of spiritual torment, Michael J. Fox's innately sunny disposition always makes it look like one p.m. in Malibu. Kiefer Sutherland, who gives a convincing performance as his Mephistophelean stoner buddy, might have been a better choice for the lead. But, to be fair, the book may be unfilmable. Essentially internal dramas of a man battling himself, such as Under the Volcano (1984), have always been notoriously difficult to film. Add to that the difficulty of capturing the tone of a writer's voice when it's commenting in an ironic or blackly comic manner on subjects such as drug addiction and emotional breakdown, and it's easy to see how the filmmakers might have gone astray. Nonetheless, in Fox's scenes with Jason Robards as an alcoholic editor, and Dianne Wiest as his dying mother, the moving work of these heavyweights give one a sense of what this film might have been with the right lead.