About seventy minutes into the tilm it looked like my protestations were beginning to pay oil. Lemmon was in a coma, the medical types were dubious, and one gleefully sensed the imminent kicking ol ye olde bucket.
Everybody loves Jack Lemmon. He’s one of the last of those old Hollywood stars. One of the guys who came up in the Fifties when you could be a nice guy on screen without getting all ironic about it. In a career that‘s spanned over fifty movies and a brace of Oscars. he‘s been the perennial honest joe in a universe of corrupt shysters. The half-stutter of incredulity. the finger loosening a too-tight collar. or that wonderful way he has ofjust wrinkling up his face in moments oferisis management. all are typical Lemmon modes ofventing recognition of the awful truth. Don‘t we just love him for it'.’
Sometimes the truth at hand has been more awful than others though. because John Uhler Lemmon III has moved with some agility between the world of light comedy and more heavyweight material. There’s more than an expanse ofyears between his first Academy Award for the famous naval farce Mister Roberts in 1955 and his second statuette in 1973 for Steve Shagan‘s ambitious study of a small-time businessman Save The Tiger; while one would not like to have to choose between his milestones in harassed comedy for director Billy Wilder including Some Like It Hot ( 1959) and The Apartment ( 1960) and the later films. 1979’s Jane Fonda-produced nuclear threat epic The China Syndrome and Costa Gavras‘ indictment of US foreign policy Missing (1982). where he memorably evoked the anxiety of the well-meaning individual embroiled in a superstructure of injustice.
Today he's in London to promote his latest movie. Dad. a loose adaptation ofthe William Wharton novel. where 65 year-old Lemmon plays Jake Tremont. a retiree ten years the actor‘s senior. whose traumatic tussle with terminal cancer is actually to knit together the divergent threads ofthe family. at length bringing him closer to estranged Wall Street exec son 'I‘ed (Cheers) Danson and forces him to reevaluate his decades ofmarriage to wife Olympia Dukakis. He‘s
Jack Lemmon has played some great roles in his time, but Dad isn't one of them. Ironicaly, reports Trevor Johnston, it still has 'Oscar' written all over it .
certainly jumped into the role with some commitment. losing over thirty pounds to get that frail look just right. having his head shaved for a bald cap. and sitting through three hours of latex-coating each morning before bouncing on set for the day‘s acting duties.
His hair's grown back now to its familiar side-parting. but he still looks a little on the lean side as he good-naturedly faces questions from the press. His biggest difficulty in finding his way into the role was perfecting the oldstcr‘s shambling gait. ‘Yeah. I had trouble with the walk. trouble lowering my centre of gravity like elderly people do.‘ he admits. ‘until I came up with the image ofsomeone who's had an accident in his pants. ' The punchline is unleashed with the mastery of an old pro. ‘You do not walk rapidly. you do not walk with your legs together. you walk with great care. And your centre ofgravity is lowered. Believe me.‘
Convincing as he is as a man who looks like he just shit himself. the part ofJake Tremont is technically demanding. It‘s easy to see why Lemmon was apparently so keen to do the movie. Playing an old and doddery codgcr (complete with rheumy eye and shaking hand effects). he gets a crack at senile dementia. has big emotional scenes where he can also clasp members of his immediate family to his wizened bosom and croak ‘1 love you'. Although these days you really have to be a deaf autistic transvestite Vietvet from outer space really to make a splash in Hollywood. it‘s the sort ofstuffthat has Oscar nomination written over it. And Jack does seem pleased with it. ‘For me. this was the best part I‘d had in terms ofcombining comedy and drama since The Apartment.‘ he chirps. Misguidedly.
Perhaps even very misguidedly. Hard as Lemmon and the east might try. Dad is sentimental Yank mush. and it has my vote for this year‘s Old Shep Memorial (ilyccrine Dropper for sevices to bathos. Normally. dear reader. I am a gentle. caring person
who folds up plastic bags after use and doesn't kick the cat even when the litter tray smells like a chemical warfare research project. But Dad sorely tried my patience. You know when you're sitting there banging your head against the seat and repeating ‘Die you bastard! Die you bastard!‘ under your breath that this heartwarming domestic drama isn't quite warming your heart as much as it might.
About 70 minutes into the film. however. it looked like my protestations were beginning to pay off. Lemmon was in a coma. the medical types were dubious. and one gleefully sensed the imminent kicking ofye olde bucket. Time for a celebratory sally to the urinal. I thought. and went offto see ifthe sight ofwhite enamel would prompt my bladder to join in with the festivities. But I was in for a shock when I returned. He who only a few minutes ago had been little more than a lump in the bed with a few tubes sticking out was now singing and dancing in his back garden in a grievously loud shirt. He had the air of a man who was going to take at least another half-hour of screen time to cash in his chips. And so it proved. Perhaps I need to see a good voodoo specialist.
Still. like Joe E. Brown says in Some Like It Hot. ‘Nobody’s perfect'. and although the massed hacks have only just had time to wipe away the vomit streaks from seeing the movie. not one of us has the gumption to raise a paw and admit what we‘re all thinking: ‘Jack. it'sa
10'! he List or. 22 March two