Nobody's Fool (1994)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Family Drama  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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The first of two infuriatingly overlooked collaborations in the 1990s between writer/director Robert Benton and actor Paul Newman, this comedy-drama based on a novel by Richard Russo is a cinematic treasure that deserves to be regarded as a late-career classic from both men. In the role of irresponsible handyman Sully, Newman gives what has to be labeled one of his finest performances. His is an extremely tough character to play: a ne'er-do-well reforming before the audience's eyes, an evolving rascal whose outer debility reflects his fractured inner life, and his unwavering sense of humor his thinly disguised heart of gold. He is one of the "grotesques" of Sherwood Anderson or Flannery O'Connor, except that he's every bit as hilarious as he is tragic. The actor has never been better, chewing the scenery with gusto and sincerely seeming to enjoy every minute of it. Benton's script is a masterpiece of comic timing replete with sharply observed character moments, whipsawing into sobering plot developments and back into good-natured humor with accomplished ease. Maybe these veteran artists are just making it all look too easy, but when even Bruce Willis gives an engaging, witty performance, it's clear that the bar has been raised pretty high by everyone concerned. Co-star Jessica Tandy (in one of her final performances) deserved an Oscar, as did Newman, for this woefully little-seen film that deserved all of the accolades it never received. Nobody's Fool (1994) pulls off a major artistic achievement, blurring the line between fiction and the vagaries of real life, never losing its central philosophic idea that it's all heartbreaking and pretty funny at the same time.