Written and Directed by Barry Levinson
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Steve Guttenberg, Tim Daly, Kevin Bacon, Paul Reiser, Daniel Stern, Ellen Barkin
Tagline: It’s open all day . . . and cookin’ all night
Trivia: The scenes in the diner were mostly improvised.
Barry Levinson’s Diner is one of the all time great “hang out” movies. Besides being a flawless snapshot of a specific time and place, Diner is about regular guys and a story that sheds some insight into the male psyche.
Diner takes place over the final week of 1959 as the decade is about to close. The story meanders into competing subplots, allowing each character to leave their mark. They discuss women, their futures, music, and sports. They can drink all night and sleep in, gather at the diner and eat burgers, live a carefree existence.
Edward’s (Guttenberg) about to get married, while his older friend Laurence (Stern) is already married, but agonizes over his boredom. In a memorable scene Laurence gets into a fight with his wife over her not sharing his passion for music. Robert (Rourke) is a hairdresser who claims he’s a law student, but is more interested in being a ladies man. Timothy (Bacon) is smart, but a little crazy, and William (Daly) seems to have it all together.
Levinson based the film the film on his own youth in Baltimore. The style of of the film resembles 1950s Elia Kazan with a touch of Truffaut. There’s no sense of the ennui or cynicism of the French New Wave, Diner is nostalgia with a realist sensibility.
Many moments bear this out: the joy of getting at 2pm and knowing today hold just as much mystery as yesterday, the excitement of a familiar hamburger and fries, favorite jukebox hits, and the endless possibilities being young.
Diner makes portrays a warm and inviting world. Rock and Roll was still fresh and exciting. Cars were an equalizer, magical vehicles with endless possibilities. TV was still new and in the middle of a golden age. Still there’s a soft melancholy of time getting short and the sense that while decisions can be delayed, they cannot be put off forever.