Length: 107 minutes
Director: James Bridges (Urban Cowboy; The China Syndrome)
Writer: Jay McInerney (Gia; David Lynch’s “Hotel Room”)
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Kiefer Sutherland, Phoebe Cates, Dianne Wiest, Jason Robards, Kelly Lynch, Swoosie Kurtz, Tracy Pollan, John Houseman, Annabelle Gurwitch, David Hyde Pierce, Jessica Lundy, William Hickey, Charlie Schlatter, Sam Robards, Reni Santoni
“Bright Lights, Big City” is one of my favorite drug movies (aren’t they all?) and it is certainly one of the more underrated ones. Based on the memoirs of screenwriter Jay McInerney, the movie is propelled by a powerhouse performance by none other than Marty McFly himself, Michael J. Fox. Yeah, that’s that right, a powerhouse performance by Michael J. Fox. You read it right. After watching him yuck it up on “Family Ties” and adequately go through the “this is heavy Doc!”s in “Back to the Future” (not to mention fucking “Teen Wolf”), Fox really proves himself as one hell of an actor here. The real shame, despite the movie’s anonymity, is that he was never really given the chance to give another performance like this. There was “Causalities of War”, but he was stuck with the Charlie Sheen “Platoon” part while Sean Penn got to chew up the scenery. Then it was off to forgettable clunkers like “Life with Mikey” and “Greedy”, until his eventual return to TV with the lame “Spin City” (only to be replaced by none other than Charlie Sheen). His extremely unfortunate bout with Parkinson’s disease has forced him out of the business and watching this movie is not only depressing due to it’s subject matter, but also due to a talent that was generally wasted by what was surely management that preferred to market Fox as Alex Keaton and Marty McFly. What a shame. There’s a sequence here where a wasted Fox gives what Roger Ebert has all ready beaten me to the punch on as describing as an amazing monologue about how lost he is and how it’s the best work of Fox’s career. He plays a thinly disguised version of McInerney named Jamie Conway here. He works for a successful magazine as an editor, but spends his nights coked up and drunk with his best friend Tad (Kiefer Sutherland). He is habitually late to work, having to stay late to make up assignments that he usually butchers anyways, and has to rely on the kindness of a caring co-worker (Swoosie Kurtz) whom he doesn’t even have the decency to show up to meet for a scheduled lunch date. Conway is still busted up over his failed marriage to Amanda (the ever beautiful Phoebe Cates), who also got hooked on coke and then became a big deal in the modeling scene and left him. The coke problem has gotten more and more out of hand until it’s taken over his life. He loses his job and finds the endless nights of partying with Tad blending together. Black screens pop up with white words printed on them that read things like “Monday- What ever Happened to Sunday?”. I was never a big fan of cocaine personally. I didn’t like the way it made me feel, but I identified with why people would like it, why they would love it. It’s a drug, that like the girl that screws Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Basketball Diaries” tells him will make him “fuck like Superman”- I interpreted that more as feel like Superman. The only problem is, like every drug (sorry to get so drug preachy in all my drug movie reviews lately by the way), it has it’s built in kryptonite and once it starts to take effect you start to feel less and less like Superman and more and more like a regular person- or worse yet, not even a regular person. Just a shadow. That’s what “Bright Lights, Big City” is about- wanting to be Superman, but ending up being just a shadow.