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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Frisco Kid

**** The Frisco Kid. Comedy western.

Directed by: Robert Aldrich.

Starring: Gene Wilder, Harrison Ford.

I bought this in a Gene Wilder-movie-buying frenzy. I'm not really sure what triggered it--perhaps watching Blazing Saddles with the kids.

Gene Wilder is Avram, a Polish rabbi. He barely made it through rabbi school--ending up a close 87th out of 88 students in his class. But he's perfect to fill the request for a rabbi in "the village of San Francisco."

Avram is a fish out of water in America, and almost immediately ends up robbed of his money and possessions. Enter Harrison Ford as Tommy Lillard, a bank robber.

The unlikely duo travels cross-country, facing one peril after another, and becoming inseparable friends.

Initially, I was a bit wary. It seemed that Avram was going to be portrayed as a comedic victim, and, in much the same way that I didn't like watching the boxing scenes in Rocky, I didn't want to see him
being swindled and taken advantage of at every turn, or having to be rescued, either by Tommy or Divine Providence.

Avram is naive and gullible, but he's also kind and generous and unshakable in his faith. And despite his poor showing in rabbinical school, he's not stupid. And what's really lovely is that he's a character you can really respect. Not because he's otherworldly, or espouses moral values, but because he's genuine, in the way very few people are.

I was struck by how different The Frisco Kid was from current movies with similar themes. It's much slower-paced, for one thing, and the humor isn't quite as over-the-top. The biggest difference, though, was the characters. Maybe I've just been watching the wrong movies, but these characters seemed more three-dimensional and their development more subtle than their contemporary counterparts. I think it's that we're not hit over the head with the changes. I detected a distinct lack of anvils. We know Tommy and Avram have changed through their association with each other, but neither changes his basic self.

I'm glad I bought this one--I'm sure I'll watch it again.


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