Monday, March 28, 2011

My Bodyguard (1980)

Please don't make me use the word "'tween" as I recommend My Bodyguard; just believe me when I promise this movie looks at that period between childhood and adolescence without irony, without condescension--instead, almost as a fable, in which Goliath befriends David.

We may have heard this odd-couple/underdog story too often, here in 2011--but My Bodyguard set the modern standard thirty years ago, especially with its excellent cast, beginning with Chris Makepeace (ironic, yes?), who as the set-upon new kid is suitably average--in a good way, the level-headed one who is surprised and confused by the bullying. But the real standouts are the supporting players: Matt Dillon, still in mini-Brando mode (and again, I mean that as a compliment: early on, Dillon was working on a kind of lanky mulishness, half-amused by the world, half-suspicious of it), is the bully. A surprise, because the real hulk in the picture is played by Adam (no relation to the brothers) Baldwin, who in seven years would steal brutal scenes in Full Metal Jacket (also on Instant Play) before moving on to the role he was born to play, Jayne Cobb in the immortal TV series Firefly. (And this, too, is on Instant Play, you lucky person--Can you hear the Josh Whedon geeks genuflect?) But I can still recall watching Baldwin back in 1980 finding a friend and shedding his sorrow--and I was certain he would do remarkable things. Of course, as it often does with the talented, Hollywood fumbled Baldwin for too long. Still, here he is, just a big kid but managing to evoke Lennie from Of Mice and Men, at least in his mute misunderstanding of his place in life.

My Bodyguard lacks some of the snap of other coming-of-age movies such as American Graffiti or A Bronx Tale, but it still provides just enough uplift to make you happy to have survived your 'tweens--darn; almost made it.