An ambitious and genial screwball farce, NERVOUS TICKS details the misadventures of York Daley (Bill Pullman), ace luggage handler for Grandview Airlines, and his attempts to collect his ditsy lover Nancy (Julie Brown) and take an 8PM flight to Rio. Getting in the way is an increasingly
bothersome array of colorful characters. They include Mr. Cole (Brent Jennings), a courier who has ripped off the "Iceman" for a suitcase full of money and is being chased for his treachery by the latter's henchmen, including Rusty (James Le Gros); Nancy's nosey neighbor Cheshire (Paxton
Whitehead), who drinks tea on his front lawn while taking in all the commotion; York's superintendent, Sol Warshow (Josh Mostel), who drags York into searching the building for his wife Sonya (Cathy Ladman); York's smarmy boss Reynolds (David Spielberg), who saddles York and his assistant Janice
(Kim Walker) with additional emergency work while negotiating to buy York's car (which is slowly demolished over the course of the evening); York's neighbor Mrs. Fennel (Nancy Fish), who's using his empty apartment to tryst with her pick-up lesbian lover Marci (Zoe Trilling) while dodging her
irate girlfriend Lu (Claire Stansfield); Arab terrorist Seve (Gerald Papsian), who's attempting with his cohort (Yomi Perry) to plant a bomb on a flight; a mysterious sexy blonde (Lauren Lane) who tries to pick up York; and a Japanese couple learning how to drive, who accidentally save York by
literally breaking up several car chases with the hoods and police. And then there's Nancy's ex-marine, TV-commercial jingle writer husband Ron (Peter Boyle), who's out gunning for York for playing around with his wife. Over the course of the frantic evening, York takes time out to play local
radio station KISS-FM's $100,000 "Money Maze" call-in game, run by DJ Bruce Vidal (as himself), which Sol ultimately wins.
Bodies pile up: Nancy and Ron accidentally shoot each other, Ron mistakenly kills Cole's pursuer Rusty, while Cole dies in a car crash, and Seve's bomb explodes in the terminal (York forgot to put it on the plane, his first piece of mishandled luggage in two years), which allows York, with
Cole's suitcase full of cash, to at long last make his flight. Eyeing the mysterious blonde, now seated across from him, York learns he's on the wrong plane and is headed not for Rio but Beirut.
Reminiscent of, if less successful than, the endless-night farces AFTER HOURS and INTO THE NIGHT, NERVOUS TICKS starts off well, with director Rocky Lang (ALL'S FAIR, RACE FOR GLORY) concisely establishing and skillfully mixing up all the elements that scurry into his addled hero's way. Perfect
farces are rare, and David Frankel's screenplay has a few understandable holes, which Lang covers up with sheer frantic energy. While not a black comedy per se, the film's considerable violence is handled by Lang with a tight, smoothly comic touch, as is the surprisingly (in this context) touching
lesbian love triangle.
Unfortunately, the frenetic proceedings are stopped dead mid-film, with a lengthy confrontation between York and Ron. Try as he does, Lang can't quite re-crank NERVOUS TICKS to its previous energy level. However, that first hour is very entertaining, with excellent bits by Josh Mostel and Cathy
Ladman, Paxton Whitehead, David Spielberg and Yomi Perry. Star Bill Pullman, who has contributed splendidly amusing bits to many comedies (RUTHLESS PEOPLE, THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, SINGLES, etc.) doesn't modulate his performance very effectively; he's as comically anxious/desperate in the beginning
as he is by film's end. Veteran Peter Boyle and comedian Julie Brown are, crucially, never very believable, and the unfortunate Brown is, as in almost all her films--EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY, SHAKES THE CLOWN, THE OPPOSITE SEX--sluttishly costumed, as if this talented actress's cleavage and rear end
were as important as her comedic skills. Naomi Shohan's production design is slyly witty, and the night-for-night cinematography by Bill Dill (THE FIVE HEARTBEATS) is sharp. Shot in 1991 in Los Angeles and in the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, the movie also effectively uses an array of decent rock
tunes, all utilized as on-screen source music. Interestingly, and something of a cinematic rarity, NERVOUS TICKS actually plays in less than real time, as the 95-minute film covers only 6:30 to 8:00 PM of its barmy evening. (Violence, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: An ambitious and genial screwball farce, NERVOUS TICKS details the misadventures of York Daley (Bill Pullman), ace luggage handler for Grandview Airlines, and his attempts to collect his ditsy lover Nancy (Julie Brown) and take an 8PM flight to Rio. Gettin… (more)