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Nadine (November 16, 2012)

As I have said before, I think any review of films made in Texas in the late 20th century would have to include the films of Robert Benton, born in Waxahachie, Texas, in 1932, who co-wrote Bonnie and Clyde and who wrote and directed Places in the Heart. Nadine was also written and directed by Benton. It was released in August, 1987 in the United States. The cinematography was by the Spanish-Cuban photographer Nestor Almendros, whose work we saw earlier in Places in the Heart, and who, even earlier, was the cinematographer on several of the great French films of the 1960s by Eric Rohmer and François Truffaut. Nadine starred Jeff Bridges (we saw him some weeks back in The Last Picture Show), Kim Basinger, Rip Torn, Gwen Verdon, Glenne Headley and Jerry Stiller. The movie was not a critical or a popular success, although it is not without style or cleverness. The film was estimated to have cost $12 million and it grossed $5.6 million. Austin, where it was filmed, looks at its very best. Austin has a downtown that, more or less, remained untouched from the 1880s until good times came back in the 1990s, and you will see it in the neighborhood around the photographer’s studio (it’s on Sixth Street, not far from the Driskill Hotel) where much of the early part of the film is set.

It’s a romantic comedy and it’s a murder mystery. Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger as the central, trying-to-separate couple, give pleasant performances. Hal Himson, in the Washington Post of the period, wrote, “The emotional center of the movie, though, belongs to Basinger's Nadine. . .the movie is about how Nadine and Vern get themselves in one mess after another (though not entirely consciously), just so they don't have to give each other up. Even though she hasn't even signed the papers to make it official, their divorce is already a much bigger failure than their marriage was. Watching the amiable Vern through Nadine's eyes, you can see why she can't get over him, and at the same time, why he drives her crazy. . . There's a likable chemistry, a comfy rhythm, between the two stars, and, as they're complimenting each other during their scene on the couch ("You look good. I mean, you look like you been eating good"), you can believe that they're inextricably hung up on each other. And Basinger, in particular, does a marvelous job of conveying the jumble of longing and exasperation that Nadine feels for Vern.” Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, same day, “Although Basinger still somehow is dismissed as a sexy blond (maybe because she is one), she is an actress of substantial talent and is right at home in Texas. . .Bridges is one of the most dependable Hollywood leading men, effortlessly likable, and they have a nice, easy chemistry together.. . . (Benton) obviously is dealing with a lot of nostalgia here, and he has all the details right: the cars, the rhythm of the streets, the way rooms are furnished. . .what I liked the most was simply the ease with which Basinger and Bridges inhabited (the movie).” Welcome to Austin, Texas in 1954. I hope you enjoy watching Nadine with me tonight.