Modernism IV

film 3 of 3

Dick Tracy

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 8, 2015

That is some opening shot. The cars and the trench coats are really great. The patent artificiality is pretty great too, or is it maybe too pleased with itself? The patent over/simplicity of the story mixes in an interesting, kind of head-scratching way with the noirish incoherence of the plot. What are they getting at here? Nostalgia? Sarcasm? A moral/narrative equivalent to the bold fauvist design? Is it all just a stunt?

In connection, I wonder if this movie doesn’t get a bit tripped up by the facial design of the bad guys. Their crazily distorted faces are pretty cool, but there’s a sense of stopping too much, to admire too much. The kid’s dad—great fight!—excepted, and Al Pacino’s bone-breaking performance.

I find Madonna, by which I mean her presence in and contribution to this particular film, to be almost wholly regrettable. Or is it merely that she troubled one of my young sons, much like Marilyn M. [and Ginger in Gilligan’s Island for that matter] troubled me when I was his age? She sure isn’t much of a singer, nor are these much of a songs. (The Madonna/Patinkin duet excepted.)

A quiet theme does emerge, mind you, in the midst of all of this confusion. Was Beatty, with his laudable liberal inclinations and his dubious Bohemian lifestyle (also considered in Shampoo ,and later Bulworth), ready to rectify the contradiction? (Was Annette Bening the answer?) Madonna/Mahoney doesn’t understand why he doesn’t follow his impulses or take her offer. Why doesn’t he abandon his dully substantial companion? “Because I love her,” he says. Also when the kid (good on the challenges and pleasures of child-raising) finally decides on his name. Tracy struggles, and then comes decently to terms.  “I don’t mind.”