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Mistress (1992)

From Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Productions comes this satirical comedy from actor, director, writer Barry Primus.

Robert Wuhl stars as a forgotten film maker who is in his forties when producer Martin Landau gives him a call about a long forgotten script, The Darkness and the Light. From here with a renewed dream in Hollywood the duo along with a young unproven script doctor played by Jace Alexander go about finding backers for the film’s production.

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The script in question is a rather downbeat story of a painter who will not sacrifice his visions for the popular vote and monetary success. Surely this is what Wuhl himself is about to experience as he begins to meet the money men. Each one of them happens to have their own ideas and a mistress who would make one heck of a leading lady.

First up is Eli Wallach who has a young bimbo blonde as his flame. Wallach gets to chew up the trio in a greasy diner. Scenes like this are why I never pass up an Eli performance.

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Then we come to Danny Aiello. An ex Vietnam vet with money. He wants a cheerful film. Not one that apparently will end in the suicide of the painter. Naturally he has a flame that is a recovering alcoholic hoping to get into the picture business.

Our last backer is none other than Robert De Niro himself. He carries a bit of his gangland roles to this one. He’s in it for the money and demands crucial changes to the script as he won’t back some art film that dies a quick death on opening weekend. It’s his way with more “sex and titillation.” His mistress played by Sheryl Lee Ralph is actually acceptable to Wuhl. Problem is she’s a demanding b–ch. Behind De Niro’s back she’s having sex with Aiello and tells Wuhl aggressively, “That’s right. I’m f-ing both you’re investors. So don’t f–k with me!”

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Wuhl is very quickly realizing that his vision is about to be twisted in any number of ways between his backers, their women and his partners. As Landau tells him, “They’re only making this picture to put their girlfriends in it.”

It’s Martin Landau that comes off best in this film as a producer who will do or say anything to stroke the money men and get Wuhl to agree and go along with the flow. He’s past his prime and just wants one more shot at the big time. Landau alone makes this rather rare title worth seeking out.

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The film itself loses it’s way down the stretch with some forced comedy that left me a little cold but the final scene of Wuhl being lured to chase his dream once more is rewarding.

Any film with a cast list like this is always worth a viewing and we even get a couple cameos from Ernest Borgnine and Christopher Walken. Added up, you get a list of heavy hitters in this look at the sacrifices made getting a script bought.

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