Starring: Robert DeNiro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard, Shelley Hack, Diahnne Abbott
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rupert Pupkin (DeNiro) is a 30-something, aspiring comedian who tries to persuade a famed talk show host, Jerry Langford (Lewis), to take a look at his comedy act, hopeful of getting a spot on his show. However the arrogant Langford has no intention of allowing Pupkin onto his show and continuously gets his office to fob him off as Pupkin persists in his attempts. Pushed over the limit by the snub, Pupkin teams up with the zany but slightly demented Marsha (Bernhard) in a bid to kidnap Langford and force his way on.
The most intiguing part of the movie is the analysis of DeNiro’s character which is handled expertly by DeNiro and director, Martin Scorcese. Pupkin seems like an amiable guy when you first meet him but as the movie continues, the dark side of his nature becomes predominant. Scorcese achieves this by allowing Pupkin’s thoughts and dreams to be shown on screen and due to this technique, we see that Pupkin is a man tortured in the past, maybe even ridiculed by those around him as a “zero”. The most disturbing element of his character is the fact that he can’t seem to distinguish reality from his dreams.
DeNiro’s character is confusing for the viewer as you don’t know whether to like or loathe him. However, this is not a problem and infact adds to the interest. Also worth mentioning is a brilliant performance from Jerry Lewis. Both actors are assisted by the sharp script which contains some classic observations. The most notable and longest lasting impression is made by DeNiro’s statement, ‘better to be King for a night than shmuck for a lifetime’.