Director: Herbert Ross
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
A sheet music salesman (Steve Martin) has an unsatisfying sex life at home. While on the road, he has an affair with a school teacher (Bernadette Peters), which sends their lives down a path of no return.
Directed by Herbert Ross, "Pennies From Heaven" is a dramatic romance written by Dennis Potter and is adapted from a British miniseries of the same name. It stars Steve Martin as Arthur, a traveling sheet music salesman barely getting by in life. He is in an unhappy marriage with a sexually frigid woman. He winds up having an affair with a school teacher named Eileen, played by Bernadette Peters, which totally ruins both their lives through a series of events that follow.
We hadn't even heard of "Pennies from Heaven," let alone know what was about before we decided to watch it. We can now tell you first hand that this whole experience sucked. As we mentioned, this film is supposed to be a drama and a musical, yet every time a musical number starts, it is so tonally out of place with the story, it yanks us right out of the narrative. All of the songs are lip-synced by the actors and are so absolutely absurd within the context of the film, you'd swear you were watching a spoof. We sure did. These shifts in tone between the actual movie and the fake musical numbers are jarring to say the least, but it's not just these instances that make this film a complete wreck to watch. There are other instances that seem like an attempt at dark humor, but really aren't at all. So much of it, even in its darker moments, is so silly and nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is. We love Steve Martin. He is one of our favorite actors, but he is a terribly mismatch for his part in this movie. It is impossible to take it, or him, seriously. This is not to say that Steve Martin can't do drama because he has proved he can in other, better films, but in this part, there is no dramatic weight to anything. None of the characters feel layered or nuanced, everything feels like a complete joke. We have no idea how it has an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, or why or how critics even begin to enjoy this film.
We have to say we're shocked to see "Pennies from Heaven" received an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay because there's nothing new here. Hell, who knows, maybe this is a film with a story that looked good on paper, but utterly failed in its execution. The whole lip-syncing shtick gets old really quick, the performances feel purposefully stiff and it just doesn't click with us, and the entire thing is too cynical and too silly to be taken seriously. This movie was a flop when it came out, and though it may have been ambitious, but it's probably better off being forgotten.
My Rating: 3/10
BigJ's Rating: 2/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 84%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!