One worth seeing…and I bet Matt B will agree with me on this one.
From Pauline Kael:
Melvin and Howard (1980) – This lyrical comedy, directed by Jonathan Demme, from a script by Bo Goldman, is an almost flawless act of sympathetic imagination. Demme and Goldman have entered into the soul of American blue-collar suckerdom; they have taken for their hero a chucklehead who is hooked on TV game shows, and they have made us understand how it was that when something big – something legendary – touched his life, nobody could believe it. Paul Le Mat plays big, beefy Melvin Dummar, a sometime milkman, sometime worker at a magnesium plant, sometime gas-station operator, and hopeful songwriter – the representative debt-ridden American for whom game shows were created. Jason Robards plays Howard Hughes, who is lying in the freezing desert at night when Melvin spots him – a pile of rags and bones, with a dirty beard and scraggly long gray hair. Melvin, thinking him a desert rat, helps him into his pickup truck but is bothered by his mean expression; in order to cheer him up (and give himself some company), he insists that the old geezer sing with him or get out and walk. When Robards’ Howard Hughes responds to Melvin’s amiable prodding and begins to enjoy himself on a simple level and sings “Bye, Bye, Blackbird,” it’s a great moment. Hughes’ eyes are an old man’s eyes – faded into the past, shiny and glazed by recollections – yet intense. You feel that his grungy paranoia has melted away, that he has been healed. With Mary Steenburgen, who has a pearly aura as Melvin’s go-go-dancer wife, Lynda; Pamela Reed as Melvin’s down-to-earth second wife; Elizabeth Cheshire as the child Darcy; Jack Kehoe as the dairy foreman; and the real Melvin Dummar as the lunch counterman at the Reno bus depot. This picture has the same beautiful dippy warmth of its characters; it’s what might have happened if Jean Renoir had directed a comedy script by Preston Sturges. Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto. Universal, color.