“The one who is in love always waits. It’s the lover’s signature.”
— Stella offers Harry a bit of wisdom from The Love Manual
Tom Berenger is HARRY DOBBS, a wonderfully befuddled, rumpled, but earnest private eye with an extremely jealous girlfriend. He’s hired by a mysterious femme fatale, Miss Dolan, to tail her possibly two-timing husband, in writer/director Alan Rudolph’s Love at Large (1990), a quirky, intriguing screwball noir look at the tangled and often random nature of love, told in a gentle Valentine to hard-boiled and noir detective films that takes place in a time that never really existed, where sultry cigarette-smoking dames talk the talk in smoky 1940’s nightclubs and rub up against post-ironic been-there-done-that 1990’s folks, while jets fly over head.
But Harry’s girlfriend doesn’t trust him, so she hires a detective of her own, the cynical STELLA WYNKOWSKI (Elizabeth Perkins), who has a few love problems of her own. And then things get really complicated–all in the name of love, of course. Connections are missed, conclusions are jumped to, and hearts are let loose in an an increasingly confusing mess of bigamy, deception and that old stand-by, murder. Love at large, indeed.
This is one of my favorite films: the acting is first-rate, and even as the characters flail around, their hearts on their sleeves and looking for love in all the wrong faces, while relationships crash and burn, Rudolph allows us to believe that maybe, sometimes, just maybe, despite it all, one day we may get it right, or at least have fun looking for it–if we don’t take it too seriously. There’s not a lot of rolling on the floor laughs here, but a constant buzz of amusement and recognition.
Think of it as a screwball comedy for your head, instead of your gut. And the music’s great, too, scored by Mark Isham, and featuring such pitch-perfect choices as “Ain’t No Cure For Love” by Leonard Cohen and “Searching For A Heart” by Warren Zevon.
- “Ultimately, this makes for light, entertaining fare. There aren’t many bellylaughs, but there is a continual glow and a delightful, endearing glee about the film. Director Rudolph’s cinematic sense is so keen that everything seems larger than it is, and more meaningful.”
— Larry Crawford (The Internet Movie Database)
- “a giddy, quirky and wonderful-to-watch movie”
— Judith Crist
- Stella: Why do you think he has two families?
Harry: Most bigamists do.
- “Harry, if you were born stupid you’re now having a relapse.”
- Harry: Ever want kids, Stella?
Stella: Kids, uh?
Harry: Yeah, little people that run around with your face.
- “The one who loves, waits.”
— Harry finally gets it
- LOVE AT LARGE | Buy on DVD | Buy on Blu-Ray
(1990, Orion Pictures)
Written and directed by Alan Rudolph
Produced by Stuart M. Besser, David Blocker, Dana Meyer
Music by Mark Isham
Starring Tom Berenger as HARRY DOBBS
and Elizabeth Perkins as STELLA WYNKOWSKI
Also starring Anne Archer, Kate Capshaw, Annette O’Toole, Ted Levine, Ann Magnuson, Kevin J. O’Connor, Ruby Dee, Barry Miller, Neil Young, Meegan Lee Ochs, Gailard Sartain, Robert Gould, Dirk Blocker
- Love at Large (1990, Atlantic) | Buy this CD
Includes performances from Warren Zevon, Leonard Cohen, Grady Walker, Tarwater and Anne Archer.
- Roger Ebert’s Review of “Love at Large”
Roger didn’t really like it, but mostly for the same reasons I loved it. Go figure…
- Trixie (2000, Pandora Cinema/Sandcastle 5 Productions)
Ten years later, Rudolph had another whack at screwball noir, with Emily Watson as a gum-snapping, malapropism-spouting P.I. wannabe, with mixed–but still entertaining–results.