Tom O’Toole (Everybody Wins)

Created by Arthur Miller

Everybody hated this film, except maybe me.

In his first original screenplay since The Misfits way back in 1961, Arthur Miller (The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, etc.) tackled the private eye genre in 1990’s moody, cynical Everybody Wins, starring Nick Nolte and Debra Winger.

Nolte plays TOM O’TOOLE with a sort of rumpled, vulnerable charm. He looks a little like a bedraggled English professor doing a perpetual walk of shame, but he’s a former Boston cop turned small town private investigator. He works out of his home, a “comfortable, conventional ranch house out in the country, “just a bit outside of Highbury, Connecticut, a small industrial city of maybe 40,000. He’s a widower, whose wife, Catherine, passed away some three years ago, leaving him with two boys. His sister, Connie, a school teacher, moved in to help with the children, but now the boys are grown up and gone, and it’s just the two of them. On the surface, things are all hunky-dory, but underneath, Connie’s maternal instincts and over-protectiveness towards Tom are starting to chafe.

And then Tom is reluctantly hired by one Angela Crispini (Debra Winger), a notorious and obnoxious local hooker.  She wants Tom to find evidence to free her friend Felix, a boy she feels has been wrongly convicted of murder. After several years of being more or less celibate, Tom finds himself falling for Angela, despite evidence that she’s either crazy or a liar (or possibly both.)

When it was released, the film was mostly panned (Leonard Maltin labelled it a bomb) condemned for being too talky, too preachy and just too damn slow, and it certainly does lack the dramatic swings, both emotional and cinematic, of most film noirs. But there’s definitely a heart of darkness rumbling under the surface, and if you can fall into its quirky low-key rhythms, there’s a lot to enjoy in this flawed but ambitious film. Call it mumble noir.

Sure, it does come off as pretentious and awkwardly self-conscious as hell at times, but its indictment of corruption, both personal and public, and the compromises that drive it, and searing and constant, and Nolte and Winger play the hell out of their characters, while Judith Ivey as the battle-weary “I told you so” sister is a real treat.

Everybody wins? Nah, but not everybody who meets this film halfway loses, either.

UNDER OATH

  • “Reisz and Miller reworked the author’s original script, “trying to make it more visual and give it more cinematic suspense,” says Reisz. What they came up with is a mess akin to Norman Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance. Everybody Wins should have been titled Death of a Playwright.
    — Rita Kempley (The Washington Post)
  • “…playwright Arthur Miller takes his sweet time getting into characters–at the cost of plot. He and director Karel Reisz… experiment wildly in film noir and parareality… Yet, even at its misbegotten worst (and it’s more misbegotten than successful), (Everybody Wins) has…originality of purpose… Miller seems interested primarily in human corruptions, major and minor, and he doesn’t mind where he has to go to find it… The story involves… a conspiracy that, in Winger’s unreliable words, goes all the way “to the top of the mountain.” Or does it? That seems to be the point in Miller’s film-noir allegory: Nothing and no one makes sense but everyone adjusts. “Everything is possible and impossible at the same time,” Winger explains to Nolte. “This is what I live with all the time.” And the thing about “Everybody” is, she’s not kidding.”
    — Desson Howe (The Washington Post)

FILMS

  • EVERYBODY WINS | Buy this video Buy this DVD
    (1990, Orion)
    97 minutes
    Based on the play Some Kind of Love Story by Arthur Miller
    Screenplay by Arthur Miller
    Directed by Karel Reisz
    Produced by Jeremy Thomas
    Music by Mark Isham
    Starring Nick Nolte as TOM O’TOOLE
    and Debra Winger as Angela Crispini
    Also starring Judith Ivey, Frank Military, Jack Warden, Frank Converse, Peter Appel, T.M. Nelson George, R.M. Haley, Mert Hatfield, Elizabeth Ann Klein, James Parisi, Steven Skybell, Sean Weil, Kathleen Wilhoite, Mary Louise Wilson, Timothy D. Wright

SCREENPLAY

THE DICK OF THE DAY

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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