Pennies From Heaven | Chicago Reader

Pennies From Heaven

Ironic, alienating musicals have been tried before (Pal Joey onstage, It's Always Fair Weather on film), but never with such lofty contempt for the form. This 1981 film drips with a sense of anger and betrayal that seems wildly out of scale to its cause—the discovery (less than original) that musicals don't reproduce social reality. The point is made endlessly, though it's in the film's favor that it's made with seriousness, consideration, and a certain amount of imagination. Unfortunately the only value the film can find to range against the false romanticism of the music is a low-grade sexuality, which is itself mocked and made into the wellspring of the characters' problems. Herbert Ross directed, in steely control for once; the interestingly spare screenplay is by Dennis Potter. With Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters. R, 107 min.

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