The Ritz (1976)

The Ritz (1976)Synopsis:

When Gaetano Proclo (Jack Weston, Dirty Dancing) realizes that his brother-in-law (Jerry Stiller, Zoolander) wants him dead, he decides to hide in a place where he thinks no one will find him: a New York “gay bathhouse.” Protoclo finds out soon enough that he is ill-equipped to deal with the patrons’ insatiable desire to have a good time.

Reaction & Thoughts:

This adaptation of Terrence Macnally’s famous Broadway show is undermined by its theatricality — The Ritz never feels like a real movie. It’s a stubbornly stagy, talky “movie.”

Director Richard Lester (Superman II & III) tried to do for Macnally’s hit play what he did for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. It didn’t work for me. I’m sure it was considered daring back in the day, but today it looks a bit dull. It’s a farce and as such it is full of grotesqueties. I don’t really have a problem with that. I just thought this could have been much better. Lester’s addiction to extreme close-ups is particularly grating.

The actors are more strident than funny. Rita Moreno (West Side Story) reprises her Tony-winning role as Googie Gomez, a performer with more enthusiasm than talent, but she seems to still be playing to the back row in the theater. Weston is a fine character actor, but he’s no leading man material (George Segal would have been my pick). Treat Williams (Prince of the City) got on my nerves. I did like F. Murray Abraham’s (Amadeus) work as the bathhouse’s unofficial “tour-guide.” He is the only actor who seems to understand the difference between stage and film.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Granted, it’s an important play/film. It dared to deal with things most people didn’t want to talk about. However, The Ritz also perpetuates awful stereotypes — it presents homosexuality as a curious oddity — so it is best described as a dated piece of canned theater. Color, 100 minutes, Rated R.

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