- Directed by Robert Altman
- Starring Cher, Karen Black, Sandy Dennis, Sudie Bond
- Written by Ed Graczyk, Ed Graczyk
Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) -- The stage is set for emotional warfare of a James Dean Fan Club reunion in a dust-bowl Texas town. Sandy's psyche, Cher's chest, Karen's contours and Kathy's sobriety are all in question as every skeleton tumbles from the closet in Altman's bitchy, Southern cat fight.
The Disciples of James Dean meet up on the anniversary of his death and mull over their lives in the present and in flashback, revealing the truth behind their complicated lives. Who is the mysterious Joanne and what's the real story behind Mona's son, James Dean Junior?
One of the many themes of this superb Robert Altman film is the power that movies can have on the lives of ordinary people and how such people can be transported (for better or worse) by their obsession for certain aspects of movies.
Based on a stage play by Ed Graczyk, this movie is a model of construction. The concept of the convergence of old friends at a reunion--this one set in 1975 among members of James Dean's fan club twenty years after his death--and an exploration of how everyone has changed is a timeworn stage mechanism, but Graczyk puts an irresistible, delicious spin on the characters and the proceedings. Perhaps only Robert Altman could have brought off a project that looks like the best of Tennessee Williams crossed the best of Ingmar Bergman, even though Graczyk's work has its own colorful singularity and originality.
Altman's camera is confined to a run-down Woolworth's store in a small Texas town located not far from where parts of James Dean's final film GIANT were filmed in 1955. There are several flashbacks to 1955 accomplished with the help of a huge mirror which appears to exhibit a life of its own as it offers a rich tapestry in which vital events in the lives of the characters are intertwined with the present-day scenes.
The movie is so full of beautiful details (eloquent silences, memorable verbal and facial expressions) that we get a complete feel for the way a once-prosperous little community has become a dried-up, desolate ghost town. The final images of the picture provide a shattering depiction of crushed dreams and lost illusions.
Every aspiring stage actress should witness Sandy Dennis' brilliant analysis of a wistful, forlorn store clerk whose addled memories have convinced her that she has done the unthinkable: she has not only kept the image of James Dean alive but has also given birth to his child. Miss Dennis' performance is an astonishing feat of acting. Her repertoire of facial and vocal tics is fully utilized, but here not one of them is ever wasted. When she puts the town slut and co-worker in her place with the line, I managed to rise above the attitudes of this town while you lay spread over a gravestone and took them inside you, or when she describes in detail her supposed one-night stand with the famous actor, or, finally, when the truth about what really happened confronts her and she stands depleted before the other guests at the reunion, we understand why many have called Sandy Dennis a great actress.
Karen Black gave some of the most interesting film performances of the 1970s in films like FIVE EASY PIECES, THE GREAT GATSBY, and THE DAY OF THE LOCUST, but there are times in COME BACK TO THE 5 AND DIME when she surpasses them all. Portraying a club member who left town prior to Jimmy Dean's birth and has undergone some far-from-subtle changes, she provides the necessary elements of irony and sadness. Altman's flawless direction is also evident in the performances of Kathy Bates and Marta Heflin and most especially in the work of Sudie Bond, who appears as the owner of the 5 and dime, a woman whose religion has sometimes blinded her to the facts of life.
Not everyone who loves movies and who understands the power that movies can have on one's life will like this one, but as one who grew up in a small town and whose life was much influenced by the movies, I find COME BACK TO THE 5 AND DIME particularly rich and fascinating.
Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean DVD is offered as a compact edition. This transfer is manufactured on demand and is presented on premium DVD-R with thermal disc print in a clear plastic wallet. Important: This title has been manufactured from the best-quality video master (rated 8/10) currently available and has not been remastered or restored.