Lavish, interesting, evocative but strained and self-conscious, THE COTTON CLUB is all watchable curiosity. Film doctor Coppola came in at the last minute to salvage a troubled production, but couldn't give it a clear storyline with incisive character motivation. This marriage of
gangsters and musicals has many elements of genius, but its biggest flaws are its leads. Gere does his own cornet solos, but his hair oil defines his character. Lane, who can only point to LONESOME DOVE in a career full of big chances, walks right through this one, like she's distracted by a
flashing traffic light. Hines does what he can without much material to create around, but Hoskins and Gwynne are terrific gangsters and McKee's rendition of "Ill Wind" is a revelation, defining her own lack of career chances and the ill-fated luck of this production.
The mix of fact and fiction, the show-stopping Ellington music, the heady, poisonous aroma of sinister glamour---COTTON CLUB has much to recommend it before it comes up empty-handed. Yet what success it can muster is discolored by might-have-beens. No doubt a behind-the-scenes documentary would
have been wildly successful.
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