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For Richer, For Poorer (1992)

This made for cable production from HBO is a bit of a throwback that allows Jack Lemmon a nice comical role with a touch of drama added in for good measure. In other words it plays to his strengths.

for richer

Lemmon plays a wealthy owner of a chain of grocery stores. He has an attractive wife played by Talia Shire and a mistress on the side in the form of Joana Gleason. Life is good.

He’s a proud man who likes to keep his employees on their toes by donning funny disguises to shop in his own stores to see how he is treated and if his employees are doing a good job.

His life is about to take a turn when his son returns home and has no inclination to get out and work. Played by Jonathan Silverman, he prefers to laze about all day around the pool and date beautiful women at night. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

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Jack quickly catches on to the fact that his son has no drive to get ahead in life. Jack did it for him.

In screwball fashion, Lemmon liquidates his earnings and gives all his cash away. The family is left without a cent. They’ll have to start over and rebuild the family fortune. Trouble is it’s Jack and not Jonathan whose the one out doing everything from washing cars to delivering telegrams. Silverman just can’t quite figure where his best interests lie when it comes to deciding on a career path.

The film is actually told in flashback as Jack is telling his story to a bag lady who gives him pause when it comes to a failed suicide attempt. Our bag lady is played by Madeline Kahn.

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While Jack’s life is crumbling around him, others will rise.

This film hit cable the same year that Jack played Shelley “The Machine” Levene in one of my favorite ensemble pieces, Glengarry Glen Ross. The two films are a great example of how a fine actor can go from a comedy done screwball style to a heavy dramatic piece opposite the likes of Pacino and Arkin.

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While not a well known film in the career of one of cinema’s best at mixing comedy and drama it isn’t all that bad. Don’t let the made for cable tag fool you. Always a pleasure to tune in and see a Jack Lemmon film.

 

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