THE LAST MOVIE STAR has its heart in the right place but never really finds the warmth needed to make it memorable
Even if you weren’t around in the 70s or 80s, you’re sure to know the name Burt Reynolds. With box office hits like DELIVERANCE (1972), THE LONGEST YARD (1974) and SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977) to his name, Reynolds seemed an unstoppable force in Hollywood for almost two decades. But what happened to the film star when Hollywood wanted him no longer? Adam Rifkin’s fictional film THE LAST MOVIE STAR aims to answer that very question.
THE LAST MOVIE STAR follows Vic Edwards (Burt Reynolds), a former movie star now in his eighties whose glory days are behind him. Urged by his best friend Sonny (Chevy Chase) to accept an invitation to a local film festival to receive a lifetime achievement award, Vic travels to Nashville only to find the festival is not at all what he expected. Reflecting upon his life, Vic decides to take a trip to the city he grew up in and with the help of his young chauffer Lil (Ariel Winter) relives some of his best days.
It’s pretty clear from the synopsis alone that THE LAST MOVIE STAR is clearly a passion project for writer/director Adam Rifkin. Rifkin wrote the script specifically for Reynolds as a love letter to his career, even going as far as using elements from Reynolds’ actual biography and footage from his films in the narrative.
Yet despite THE LAST MOVIE STAR’s heartfelt premise, the overall tone of the film seems a bit all over the place. The film opens with a heart-wrenching scene in which Edwards has to say goodbye to his dog, before going straight into a comedy sequence in which Vic and his friend Sonny ogle young girls in a park doing Yoga. It is this continuing shift from drama to comedy that just doesn’t sit quite right with a film about a man ultimately reliving his past and assessing his future.
The biggest flaw in THE LAST MOVIE STAR is that we’re never really sure what is based on fact and what is fiction. As the two elements begin to merge into one, the line between Burt and Vic becomes so blurred that Vic never seems to come alive as a character. As such, when he eventually takes a trip down memory lane, we feel curiously detached from him and never really connect with the character on an emotional level.
That said, there are a few surprisingly effective moments, particularly when Rifkin cleverly inserts old Vic into footage of his two biggest hits – SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT and DELIVERANCE – so we literally see young and old Reynolds in a few iconic scenes. These are certainly fun to watch even if they feel a little odd.
What is also is undeniable is the space Rifkin has created in which Reynolds can truly shine. It’s great to see the actor back in action again and despite his physical restrictions – he now uses a cane and walks with a stoop – the old Burt is still there, razor-sharp as ever. His interaction with Ariel Winter as Lil is engaging and the putdowns he makes under his breath are hilarious. The sequence towards the end of the film in which Vic reconnects with an old love is also surprisingly emotional and you almost wish we had more of this at the start of the film.
While THE LAST MOVIE STAR definitely has its heart in the right place, it never really finds the warmth or emotional connection needed to make the film memorable. If you’re a fan of Reynolds, you’re sure to enjoy it and at the very least, Rifkin deserves praise for attempting to highlight the issue of treatment of older actors in Hollywood.
THE LAST MOVIE STAR is available on-demand and for download on 20 August 2018.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.