Catch-Up: Hopscotch (1980)
There is a pattern in movies that disappoints me every time, something I’m still trying to get used to: the bad second half.
Hopscotch is a good example. I had never heard of this movie: directed by Ronald Neame, released in 1980. My friend bought it for me because of the cover: Walter Matthau at a typewriter, looking disheveled with a cup of coffee.
It turned out to be a spy movie. Now I’ve always had problems with James Bond. Mostly because I don’t identify with the man. Does he have B.M.s? Probably, but they look and smell like ice cubes. Does he have emotions? Sort of, sometimes he does. Does he drink beer with a straw? Definitely not, what a stupid question. James Bond’s just not my type of man then. But a spy like James Bond played by Walter Matthau? Amazing.
I was so excited at the beginning of the movie. Matthau’s Miles Kendig is irresistible; he is in love with a beautiful Austrian woman with a dry sense of humor (Glenda Jackson); he never carries a gun; and he is very, very smart. After Kendig loses his position as an international spy, he decides to write a memoir, a tell-all, mostly to torment his old boss (Ned Beatty). Kendig sends it, chapter by chapter, to all the people all over the world who should not be reading it. So, as a result, he’s on the lam.
At every turn for the first half of the movie, I was charmed, surprised, and laughing out loud. Then came the second half: predictable, unending, spotted with scenes that flat-out didn’t work.
Why does this happen so often? Movies get wishy washy or preachy, sappy when they used to be funny, boring when they used to be fun. Is it because movies are descendents of theater and generally the second acts of plays are worse than the first acts. Either way, as Hopscotch neared its end, it tried leaping to new heights, when actually movie watchers are so used to these clichés: car chases, airplane chases, outsmarting dimwitted police officers. It was so much better when Matthau drove around singing along badly to Mozart and having euphemistic conversations with his lover. Fuck man. I wish I would have known and turned it off halfway and left on a good note. But that’s impossible. The movie was so good at first that I would have always pined for the rest.