Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Film director Levinson (Diner; Rain Man; etc.) returns to Baltimore in a rambling debut about high school buddies trying to cope with grown-up life. It's 1966, and narrator Bobby has decided to ditch law school for a low-paying job at the local TV station, much to his girlfriend's dismay. Enigmatic Neil has declined a deferment and is heading to Vietnam. Ben, one-time "King of the Teenagers," is marrying girlfriend Janet because he's losing his hair and Janet's father has offered him a job in the Cadillac showroom. Odd-couple pals Turk and Eggy are 1950s holdovers marveling at organic foods and loose hippie chicks. The boys help each other deal with it all by meeting at the diner to retell stories they've all heard before. Though Ben presents these anecdotes as sidesplitting or life changing, most come across as pretty dull stuff: a kid plays a pinball machine and doesn't win; the zany diner guys drive a car in reverse and hit some trash cans; Bobby makes up a TV traffic report and gets away with it. From these stories Bobby draws conclusions that are as pedestrian as the episodes themselves: "when we're young we understand so little about what we are"; "[l]ike tears, laughter often comes when you least expect it"; and "destiny is what we make it." It's clear that Levinson is shooting for elegy and wisdom, but even though the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement are mined for drama and relevance, readers will find mostly tedium and platitudes. (Oct.) Forecast: Levinson is one of several Hollywood directors (Steven Bochco, Death by Hollywood; DJ Levien, Swagbelly) to try his luck with novels, and his celebrity should stimulate coverage and sales. But poor word of mouth may stifle the latter-with characters and situations closely resembling those of 1982's Diner, the verdict may be: just rent the movie. Major ad/promo; five-city author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
High-school buddies move into the tough world of the late '60s in a weakly plotted debut. Director-screenwriter Levinson returns to Baltimore, the scene of three of his more successful efforts, Diner, Avalon, and Tin Men. As in those films, Levinson remains fascinated with life's passages, but as a novelist, he fails to bring these moments to poignant life. The narrative shifts clumsily from Bobby Shine's first-person story to third-person tales from Bobby's pals. Bobby faces life after high school with some success: he becomes a promising TV director and begins a relationship with his girlfriend Annie. But Annie's brother Neil reveals a self-destructive streak, letting himself be drafted, then going AWOL. Similarly, drug-dependent friend Ben curdles as his marriage collapses. High-school high jinks remain the order of the day at the local diner, where the guys, joined by immature pals Turko and Eggy, meet to spin tiresome tales of the past that seem like Diner leftovers. There are occasional flashes: when Ben stomps out of his father-in-law's car dealership, refusing to work there, the moment has the feeling of a good take. But too often Levinson writes flat, even banal prose, as when Bobby observes, "Like tears, laughter often comes when you least expect it." He never reaches any depth in exploring the changes the war in Vietnam brings to his characters' world--passages about the conflict read like wedged-in exposition. And even though Levinson, through Bobby, makes the point that accidents shape destiny, the events pushing the narrative forward still seem forced, particularly a riot involving blacks in downtown Baltimore. The closing of the diner at the end recalls Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show, still the benchmark for this sort of coming-of-age tale. The Baltimore that Levinson evoked so warmly on film eludes him on paper. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Descriptive content provided by Syndetics™, a Bowker service.