(Richard Brody’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 3/27; Photo Source: Atlas Media via Pam Green.)

March 27, 2020

The coronavirus lockdown adds wild emotional lurches to the movie-viewing equation: What to watch for pleasure, at a time of distress and worry? And what to watch when the regular rhythm of new releases has all but stopped? I’ve noticed, anecdotally, that movie enthusiasts with whom I’m acquainted have pursued a wide range of selections in lockdown times: some have gone for Hollywood classics, familiar or not; others have sought out wide-release movies of recent decades that they’d missed the first time around, or yet others are watching modern masterworks of international cinema. Some viewers head for easygoing movies of warm emotion and handy optimism. I haven’t been able to make up my mind, so I’ve rather been yielding to happenstance and watching movies that adventitious prompts have brought to mind.

Prompted by a tweet from Odie Henderson, a fellow-critic, referring to his review in the Village Voice, from 2016, I recently watched the remarkable documentary “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened.” It’s about the greatly anticipated production and immediate failure of the Stephen Sondheim/Hal Prince musical “Merrily We Roll Along” in 1981; it’s directed by Lonny Price, who was one of the lead actors in that original production. (I didn’t review the film at the time, because of a familial and personal connection to Price; we grew up around the corner from each other in Queens.) Price’s film is a fascinating and moving combination of a backstage musical documentary and a first-person story of youthful dreams and long, knocked-around life arcs.

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