Wednesday, October 16, 2019

"Dolemite Is My Name"

What a sweet, skillfully executed, tasteful morsel of a movie this is.

That pretty much covers it.  I should probably watch some Congressional hearing, and leave it at that.

But there’s more I can say.

Particularly about Eddie Murphy.

Who I have come to appreciate in muted and mellowing middle age. 

His, not mine.

I recently re-met Eddie Murphy on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  I could tell Jerry revered him.  They did the longest segment in the series together.  Also, Jerry told him, “I love you so much”, which kind of let it out of the bag.

It was a joy to see them totally in sync – the conjoined “Black-and-White Cookie”, as it were.  Or as Jerry expressed it, “Two Long Island comedy gunslingers.”  (Who broke into “Stand-up” at precisely the same time.)

The thing is Jerry’s still performing, while a retired Eddie Murphy trods the domestic terrain.

“What’s the first thing you do in the morning?”  Jerry asks him.

“I eat prunes…” 

“… Raisin Bran…”

(To which Jerry quips, “Well, we know what you’re doing the rest of the day.”)

Even if he wanted to go back onstage, there is the inevitable issue with super-rich, middle-aged comedians.

What do you talk about in your act?

“Every day, I eat four prunes.  Lost count – down to one.  I’m Iike, ‘Man, I’m not going to make it!”

Hard to match that with the stage-prowling octane of his youth.  Sexual content and onstage prowling fit together.  “Breakfast laxative” material?  That’s more leaning on the stool.  (Definitely no pun intended.)

It’s a challenging conundrum.  You cannot get back “up there” because the “heat’s” been turned down.  But you want to stay in the game. 

So what do you do?

If you are Eddie Murphy, you use your residual cachet to make a film about cultural icon Rudy Ray Moore, who overcame limitations in talent and bankrolling, cranking out naughty “Party Records” and “Blaxploitation” movies of questionable quality, inspiring the following generation with his brashness and flash.

(You can detect Rudy Ray Moore’s flashy influence in the dazzling wardrobe of Murphy’s early-filmed concerts.  Eddie’s addition to the recipe:  Unique comedy genius.)

With moneybags Netflix behind him, Murphy marshaled his latent “juices” (and impeccable judgment) into starring and producing and in the honoring Dolemite Is My Name, filmed with style, restraint, quality writing, resonant stagecraft, confident directing (Craig Brewer) and luminous casting, everyone onboard, cleary relishing their roles.

Lesson learned:

No need to throw in the towel, sitting home, munching on prunes.

The “Youthful Persona” is gone.

But the guy who invented it’s still “got it.”

Kudos to Dolemite Is My Name.

It’s no 48 Hrs.

But it feels like forever.

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