Copacabana (1985)

Genres - Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Drama, Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Veteran filmmaker Waris Hussein directed this perversely fascinating but amazingly wrong-headed telefilm paying tribute to 1940s musicals and based on the hit song by Barry Manilow. The need for viewers to suspend all preconceived notions of reality begins with the casting of Manilow himself as a World War II veteran named Tony Star. Tony longs to be a famous songwriter and ends up working as a bartender at the legendary Copacabana nightclub in New York City. While participating in a radio quiz show testing contestants' musical knowledge, Tony meets Lola Lamar (Annette O'Toole), whom he later falls in love with while she is working as a B-girl at the club. Tony tends bar while trying to sell his songs and become recognized, but complications ensue when the diamond-festooned gangster Rico Caselli (Joseph Bologna) steals Lola away to Havana. Tony finally becomes a star, enjoys a tearful reunion with his long-lost father, and attempts to rescue Lola, but as anyone familiar with the song can attest, the tensions within the club eventually lead to tragedy. Campy and ridiculous, the film is nevertheless interesting on a number of levels, and O'Toole is admittedly impressive as the dissolute Lola. Estelle Getty, Hamilton Camp, and Cliff Osmond appear, while Silvana Gallardo stands out in an otherwise thankless role as Conchita Rivera.