The Lonely Guy

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When I was a little kid I was obsessed with actor Charles Grodin. I saw Beethoven (1992) and was hooked. When Clifford (1994) came out it was an instant favorite of mine. But what I needed as a kid was more Charles Grodin movies. So often I’d rent Sunburn (1979) and King Kong (1976) from the video store. The issue was that there weren’t a ton of Charles Grodin movies that my mother would let me see. Apparently most Charles Grodin films were too adult for a little boy in third grade.

Luckily for me my father intervened. Dear old dad was familiar with Charles Grodin’s scene stealing performance in The Lonely Guy (1984) and decided I had to see it. So my father rented The Lonely Guy and copied it onto a blank tape for me. But, in order to appease my mother, my dad cut the prologue and all the scenes that explicitly reference sex in The Lonely Guy. This meant that the version I saw of The Lonely Guy was a distillation that put the friendship between Steve Martin and Charles Grodin at the forefront of the film.

My dad’s version of The Lonely Guy was the only version I saw till I was in my twenties. I sat down with The Lonely Guy on DVD eager to see all the hilarious stuff that my father had cut from the movie. But, to my surprise, the regular version of The Lonely Guy wasn’t as good or as funny as the seventy-minute version I had been watching since third grade. My dad had cut The Lonely Guy so it was just one hilarious scene after another. Our family edit of The Lonely Guy felt more like an extended episode of Seinfeld and was all the better for it.

The Lonely Guy really is a decent movie that can be cut down to a great movie. All the stuff about lonely cavemen can go and so can half the scenes about Jack and Danielle. The Lonely Guy rocks when its about two men partying with cardboard cut-outs (you have to reserve Gene Hackman a week in advance), watching football with their ferns or discussing “bald bums”. It’s when the absurdity of the mundane is embraced that The Lonely Guy works and balances its romance with its comedy. It should be a tender, goofy movie rather than a bawdy, stupid movie.

And oh boy does Charles Grodin steal the show as Warren. Grodin’s inflections and body language create an immediately recognizable character who is the perfect foil to Steve Martin’s ever optimistic Larry. Grodin gives Warren so much depth with his little choices like the way he laughs or smiles at Larry. Larry is the lead of the picture, but it is Warren who gives it its heart. The Lonely Guy isn’t the best work by Neil Simon or Arthur Hiller, but it’s definitely one of Grodin’s great performances.