Netflix's recommendation system seems mighty sure of itself.
This strikes me as strange, because I'm pretty sure it doesn't even have a brain. Unless the company is far more horrifying than any of us know.
Still, you can't argue with results. When Netflix tells me I'll like something, it's generally right on the mark. Except when it betrays me, as all robots inevitably do, by breezily asserting I'll like the heck out of something like 1982's My Favorite Year.
In 1954, Mark Linn-Baker is a young writer for the biggest comedy show in New York. This week's guest: Peter O'Toole, a legendary, swashbuckling movie star. But he's also such a drunk he might not be able to make it on stage. Linn-Baker is tasked with keeping O'Toole out of trouble. If the aging star can't make the show, Linn-Baker will be out of a job.
Which would serve him right, because he's a flailing cartoon who acts like he's playing to the back row of the theater. That caters exclusively to mole rats. All right, maybe it isn't that bad, but director Richard Benjamin shoots for a throwback to the screwball comedies from the era My Favorite Year is set in. In the process, he discovers why nobody makes those movies any more.
I could propose the movie's wacky tone and outsized acting fails because no one but O'Toole was old and successful enough to have any experience with those earlier comedies. But I would totally be making that up! Truth is, it's just not good. The characters spend so much time talking about being funny they forget to be funny. Which actually means the writers forgot to write them funny lines. Yes, that's how it works. Whenever you dislike one of these reviews, I just forgot to make it good.
So the main character's a dope, the tone's off and the dialogue is weaker than this metaphor I forgot to write. What, then, has made My Favorite Year so well-regarded?
One word: O'Toole. Two words? In any event, O'Toole is the greatest -- fully believable as a huge star of boundless charm. His Oscar-nominated performance is hilarious, magnetic and moving. Maybe that explains my issues with the rest of the movie -- O'Toole makes everything else look worse by comparison. Burn Peter O'Toole! Or just enjoy his role.
My Favorite Year also has the good sense to go out on a high note. While its climax isn't really earned, it's funny and thrilling, an enthusiastic tribute to the power of stars. Like O'Toole, it feels lifted from a different and better movie.