March 8, 1982 [Diner]

In Breaking Away, Daniel Stern wishes he were a cartoon character--that way, when someone hits you on the head, BOINK, with a frying pan, your skull flattens out in a perfect frying-pan shape, then pops back into place again, SPROING, good as new. That would be cool.

In Diner he's still wishing--only this time it's his record collection, the only thing Shrevie thinks will help him re-shape himself--well, return him to the shape he believes he once was. One 45 out of place, and he explodes at his wife, a little taste of Jack from The Shining as he berates her, "You never ask me what's on the flip side!" He storms out and drives, singing along to the radio with his hands clenched on what may be a life preserver, Clarence "Frogman" Henry telling us he's a lonely boy-girl-frog, aint got a home, aint got a mudder or fadder, nobody.

Diner looks at Shrevie and Boogie and Fenwick and the rest of them with affection--but it doesn't forgive every foolish boyhood yearning of this first generation of Americans--in the early 1960s--encouraged not to grow up, but to see adulthood as a final exam--like the Baltimore Colts test Eddie's fiancée has to take, vastly important for no good reason. Fenwick delivers Diner's motto: "Do you ever get the feeling that there's something going on that we don't know about?" We all get that feeling, boys, and Barry Levinson's movie provides few answers, beyond whatever wisdom lies in a popcorn box or behind Fenwick's lidded eyes.


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