April 8, 2010

For The Love of Peter O'Toole: My Favorite Year

My Favorite Year (Richard Benjamin, 1982)

Role: Washed-up, alcoholic swashbuckler Alan Swann

Full disclosure: I don't like this film. But, a whole heck of a lot of other people really do. It's something of a sentimental favorite for a lot of people. My Favorite Year is that kind of film: sentimental. Practically dripping for nostalgia, it's the story of a young television writer in the 1950s working for a Sid Caeser-esque comedian. The writer has to chaperone O'Toole's character, an Errol Flynn-like gentleman boozer as he rehearses for his guest spot on the variety show. There's a lame mob sub-plot and lots of Mel Brooks-type humor, like this. Still, although I couldn't stand nearly everything in the film, like many times before, O'Toole saves the picture. It's a light-comic farce so it's easy to forget the facility and grace it takes an actor to perform the physical comedy and repartee the part of Alan Swann requires. But there's also some surprisingly heavy lifting to be done; Swann is an unrepentant alcoholic with a daughter he's never even met. Kind of a jerk, really. O'Toole provides the charm needed to balance the character effectively.

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