Overlong and overly formless, the two lead actors here do their best, but too much of the film rests on their improvised dialogue, and the sloppy narrative never really coheres with the musical aspect. The idea of going ‘behind’ a musical and really illustrating the issues and neuroses behind the singers is interesting, but the film rarely really zeroes in on this, and too many of its repetitive scenes feel more like practice for RAGING BULL’s excellent exploration of toxic masculinity than anything as worthwhile on its own.
There’s nothing here to merit the length, and the idea of being improvisational and saggy in the style of a jazz song sounds nice in theory, but doesn’t really work to any great effect than sounding novel as an idea.
De Niro is excellent at the slappy, possessive, toxic masculinity of his character (which he’d perfect in Scorsese’s next film RAGING BULL, of course), but there are so many scenes showcasing his personality that don’t iterate on previous ones. There’s no modulation, just repetition. Perhaps the improvising and issues editing together coherent throughlines for the film were the issue.
The sets are nice at least, grand and not concerned with undue realism. The music also works, although too many numbers are concentrated in the last act. Interesting, but far from Scorsese’s highlights. Three saxaphones, and a sloe gin fizz.