So Fine 1981 ***

M8DSOFI EC001Ryan O’Neal’s star was fading by the early 80’s, but he was still picking up $2 million checks for out-of-step vehicles that didn’t set the box office alight. Comedy fashion in 1981 meant boobs and car-crashes, and So Fine’s Runyon-esque picture of rivalry in the NYC garment trade wasn’t the right platform for O’Neal’s brand of put-upon clowning. Writer/director Andrew Bergman’s comedy is the fictional story of the invention of arse-less jeans; academic Bobby Fine is sleeping with a gangster’s moll, and gets caught in the act; ejected into the street in a pair of jeans too small for him, they rip, and ergo, the bottomless pants are born. If this sounds like a weak premise for a comedy, then there’s more than a few other outré items to be accounted for; Jack Warden and Fred Gwynne have just the right salty tone for the venture, but Richard Kiel is given a lot to do as a gangster. Kiel was a genial presence in films post his 007 fame, but the role of Mr Eddie doesn’t fit right at all, and throws the whole enterprise into a cartoon realm. So Fine is the definition of a curiosity, with star, support and everyone concerned pulling in different directions; Bergman went on to a successful career with Fletch, The Freshman and Honeymoon in Vegas, and there’s evidence of the cleverness of his writing here amidst the chaos.

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