For Reel

Hopscotch (1980)
February 15, 2012, 6:46 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ronald Neame

Hopscotch, the award-winning thriller novel by writer Brian Garfield (whose Death Wish had been brought to the screen the decade previous), was adapted by the British director Ronald Neame in 1980 as a comedy vehicle for Walter Matthau. The picture’s script went through many renovations during the preproduction process, and only when Matthau was attached and the comedic elements were enhanced did Neame agree to make it. The evolving script, then, might be a good place to assign the blame for the film’s faults. It doesn’t quite satisfy in any of the ways that it intends to – as a thriller, it is immediately neutered because Matthau is always one step ahead of his foes and is never in any immediate danger, and, as a comedy, it is only intermittently funny, and that is due much more due to Matthau’s charms than any remarkable wit in the dialogue. Furthermore, it is a lousy depiction of the writing process, which is problematic as the writing of a memoir is key to the drama. Halfway through the film, when Matthau reveals that he only has one chapter left to write, it comes as a surprise. Glenda Jackson costars as the love interest, but her part is undercooked and the scenes that she does have with Matthau are largely forgettable. There’s a scene over a glass of wine that is supposed to serve as foreplay but instead invents new standards for sexless tension.

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