This thoughtful character study of an aging misfit was such a welcome rarity in 1990s Hollywood that it was perhaps overpraised on release; still, Paul Newman's Oscar-nominated performance and Robert Benton's solid, unobtrusive direction combine to create a resonant if unsurprising
meditation on growing old in America.
Sixty years old, unemployable, and alone, Donald "Sully" Sullivan (Newman) has spent the better part of his life shirking responsibility in weather-beaten North Bath, New York. Having walked out on his family years before, Sully leads a dead-end existence, drinking, playing cards with his buddy
Rub (Pruitt Taylor Vince), and renting a room in the house of his old schoolteacher, Miss Beryl (Jessica Tandy). Sully supports himself by doing periodic construction work for hard-headed Carl Roebuck (Bruce Willis), while pursuing a fruitless lawsuit against his boss for a partially disabling
knee injury. Sully seems comfortable with his long, downward spiral, but when his estranged son Peter (Dylan Walsh) and his family come to town for Thanksgiving, he's forced to confront issues that he's long repressed.
Newman's performance is more than the stock collection of curmudgeonly tics that we've come to expect from major stars playing older men; he manages to suggest a great deal more about Sully's past foibles and present-day class resentments than is contained in Robert Benton's episodic script,
based on the novel by Richard Russo. Willis and Griffith are both surprisingly good, and John Bailey's camera turns a ramshackle neighborhood of Poughkeepsie (standing in for the fictional town) into something close to a character in itself. NOBODY'S FOOL is to be commended just for acknowledging
the existence of old age in the context of youth-obsessed pop culture; more importantly, the film is refreshingly frank about the everyday struggles of many senior citizens in an era of fractured families and a disappearing social safety net.
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: This thoughtful character study of an aging misfit was such a welcome rarity in 1990s Hollywood that it was perhaps overpraised on release; still, Paul Newman's Oscar-nominated performance and Robert Benton's solid, unobtrusive direction combine to create… (more)