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Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau team up again for this comedy about two longtime neighbours, who end up falling for the same woman, when she moves into their street.  Ariel (Ann-Margret) is flighty, flirty and gorgeous, and before long, John Gustavson (Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Matthau) are competing for her affections, and playing dirty tricks on each other.

Some actors just gel together, and Lemmon and Matthau bounce off each other perfectly – just like in their younger days – as ‘frenemies’.  There are a lot of genuinely laugh-out-loud moments too, as John and Max constantly try to one-up each other.

More surprising are the moments of pathos – all three of the main leads are lonely to some extent, and looking for something new in their life.  Lemmon plays vulnerable to a tee, and Matthau also elicits sympathy with his familiar hang-dog expression and the sense that for him, life is passing too quickly. Ann-Margret looks beautiful, and is perfectly cast as the woman who brings a spark back into their lives.

Burgess Meredith is wonderful in a supporting role as John’s father, who at the age of 94, lives life with gleeful abandon, and Darryl Hannah and Kevin Pollack are both great in their roles as John’s daughter and Max’s son (who are also obviously attracted to one another).

As the film is set from Thanksgiving to Christmas, it would be a perfect holiday movie, one to appeal to all ages, and is sure to provide plenty of belly laughs.  Highly recommended.

Year of release: 1993

Director: Donald Petrie

Producers: Dan Kolsrud, Richard C. Berman, John Davis, Darlene K. Chan, Kathy Sarreal

Writer: Mark Steven Johnson

Main cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ossie Davis, Darryl Hannah, Kevin Pollack

 

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Having watched the version of this film starring Henry Fonda – which I very much enjoyed – I wanted to watch this 1997 remake for comparison purposes.  Here. Jack Lemmon plays juror number 8, and as an always reliable actor, he plays the part well.

Much of the script remains unchanged from the 1957 film, and there are no changes whatsoever in the storyline itself.  There are a few added lines (and I was particularly sad to see that one scene had been cut out, albeit that that scene added little to the storyline itself, but I found it poignant in the 1957 film, nonetheless).

However, I do prefer the original film.  Fonda really made the role his own, and while Lemmon is an equally talented actor, I preferred the supporting cast in the first movie.  Lee J. Cobb, who played juror number 3 – the one most determined to find the defendant guilty at any and all cost – inhabited the part better than George C. Scott did in the 1997 film.  The same goes for most of the other characters too – except for two.  Mykelti Williamson (juror number 10) and Ossie Davis (juror number 1) were both excellent here, and Williamson in particular lit up the screen with his sheer presence.  His performance was superb.

As the story was brought up to date, the jury was multi racial; of course in reality there would almost certainly have been women on the jury as well, but as screenwriter Reginald Rose (who wrote the original script for the play which was adapted for the original film) pointed out – to have included women, the title would have had to have been changed to 12 Angry Persons, which wouldn’t have been as effective.

Some remakes are awful.  This one really isn’t, and in fact taken on its own merits it is a film well worth watching; however, I would strongly recommend watching the 1957 film as well – although I watched both within a few days, I certainly didn’t feel bored with either version.

Year of release: 1997

Director: William Friedkin

Writer: Reginald Rose

Main cast: Jack Lemmon, Mykelti Williamson, Courtney B. Vance, George C. Scott, Tony Danza, Ossie Davis, Hume Cronyn

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Click here for my review of 12 Angry Men (1957)

Click here for my review of the 2013 stage adaptation of Twelve Angry Men, at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Click here for my review of the 2015 stage adaptation of Twelve Angry Men, at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

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