Mikey and Nicky (1976)
September 5, 2023 12:08 PM - Subscribe

Nicky is on the run from the mob, and he turns to old pal Mikey for help.

Nick is living in a downtown hotel room. Alone, desperate, and afraid that someone is going to kill him, he calls on his old friend Mikey for help.

Ivana Brehas: Though a dialogue-heavy film, its conflicts are communicated in equal measure through its use of space. The film is filled with physical barriers: doors, walls, windows and tables perpetually divide its eponymous leads from one another, and from the world around them. Mikey and Nicky are constantly on the move, running from place to place (or being kicked out), showing little regard for said barriers. We may find them initially charming (à la the men of Mean Streets [Martin Scorsese, 1973], they’re reckless but amusing: stealing milk, smoking on the bus, flaunting their disobedience), but May forces us to witness the full extent of allowing men to get away with disrespectful behaviour – “boys will be boys” taken to its logical conclusion.

Katusha Jin: Although May, Cassavetes, and Falk are known for their improvisatory skills, these dialogues were a result of May’s writing choices. The exchanges between the characters bounce directions in a very well-crafted and unexpected way, and with the unmissable chemistry between Cassavetes a Falk, the pair maintains our interest. As the viewer, we ponder the emotions that weave through the two men’s minds as they stagger back and forth between honesty and distrust. The viewers become witnesses of poor attitudes towards women, racism, and what happens when two people are at their wit’s end. Ultimately when everything is stripped away, Mikey and Nicky are about the friendship of two defeated men and how their interactions with other people reflect their personalities.

Marjorie Baumgarten: She unleashes the darkest, most mercurial side of Cassavetes, and in Falk finds the actor's moral ambiguity that had been obscured as a result of his then-popular run as TV's Columbo. The movie is basically a two-person drama about old friends and maybe current enemies. Nicky (Cassavetes) is a small-time hood with a contract out on his life. Mikey (Falk) is his lifelong friend who may or may not be trying to help Nicky escape his fate. Ned Beatty is the hitman who circles them rapaciously as they spend a high-wire night together. Nicky charms and chills all he encounters, and Mikey begins to recall all the small resentments that have built into a now-impregnable force. The movie grinds along its dark, mordant, and fascinating path until it culminates in one of the most emotionally harrowing scenes ever filmed.

posted by Carillon (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Man this movie is amazing. It's about friendship and love, and betrayal. I love the car that Mikey shows for Nicky in the opening scenes, even as he's going to betray him. It explores fragile masculinity, and how these folks are trapped by it. I loved it. I did wish it was a bit better in terms of visual quality. I don't know how possible that would have been given the camera tech and budget she had to work with, but parts of it aren't that great to look at. How this isn't more talked about is a mystery to me though, it really succeeds where a lot of other movies about 'bad men' fail, they show all the glitz and glam and then say but you don't want this, look what happens in the third act! This is all third act, and really shows how sad it all is.
posted by Carillon at 12:25 PM on September 5, 2023 [2 favorites]

Elaine May's films are always beautiful disasters. A New Leaf is one of my all time favorites. There are some great stories about the making of this film. Like how she prodded Cassavetes and Falk to improvise during the graveyard scene while the camera man desperately tried to indicate that the camera was out of film. Later during editing she was looking for that bit, and quoted the entire improvised scene back verbatim to the camera guy, who again explained that the camera had run out of film. When the studio wanted to see a rough cut, but the sound wasn't mixed in, she showed the film silently and did all the voice acting and sound effects herself.
posted by jabah at 6:10 AM on September 6, 2023 [1 favorite]

I hear what you're saying but I'd disagree they're disasters. I think they're both very effective and work! I haven't seen Ishtar yet, so that might be a beautiful disaster. Apparently though the scenes weren't improv'd! Which I think is wild, it's both awesome that she was able to write such dialogue that feels real, and that the actors were so good they could make it feel raw and live.
posted by Carillon at 10:29 AM on September 6, 2023

This is one of my favourite movies. Reconciling the friend you remember with who he has become. Loving the memory of someone who has since changed or maybe never was that memory. Being hurt in the ways only someone that knows you in the most intimate ways can hurt you. Getting swept up and falling into old patterns and dynamics. Hurting someone because you can't tell them you love them. Letting go of someone you you love because you have to.

It's so good. I take away something different every time I watch it. Sometimes it is an unrequited love story and other times it's about toxic masculinity. Sometimes it is just about the death of friendship or the depths of loyalty. Maybe it is just about friendship over years of trauma.

I love it. I often recommend it and nobody ever watches it :(
posted by forbiddencabinet at 6:45 PM on September 6, 2023 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Mikey and Nicky and A New Leaf are both wonderful films. By "disaster" I just meant that the studio took away both films from her during editing in order to get them finished. A New Leaf lost half its story, took on a new life and probably was improved because of it. Mikey and Nicky not so much (although the version people see nowadays, I'm pretty sure, is May's director's cut). At one point, notoriously, May hid two reels of this film so the studio couldn't finish it without her, although she eventually relented.
posted by jabah at 6:59 PM on September 6, 2023 [1 favorite]

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