12:53am PT by Scott Feinberg
Chicago 2012: Star-Studded 'Stand Up Guys' Opens 48th Chicago International Film Festival
Chicago -- The 48th Chicago International Film Festival, the main slate of which is composed of 18 films, opened on Thursday night with a big homecoming, of sorts: the world premiere of the Lionsgate comedy Stand Up Guys, which was produced by Tom Rosenberg (an Oscar winner for Million Dollar Baby) and Gary Lucchesi and directed by Fisher Stevens, all Windy City natives. (So, too, are the co-directors of the fest's centerpiece film Cloud Atlas, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, and the director of the closing night film Flight, Robert Zemeckis.)
Making the evening extra special was the presence of some special friends that Rosenberg and Stevens brought along: the film's legendary Oscar-winning stars Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin -- the trio play long-ago partners in crime who reunite for one last night of mischief -- as well as the great rock star Jon Bon Jovi, who read the script before any of them signed on to it and decided right away to provide two original songs for the film, "Not Running Anymore" (which plays over a key dramatic scene) and "Old Habits Die Hard" (which plays over the end credits).
At the film's Pump Room after-party, I joked with Walken, who I also saw on Wednesday night at the New York premiere of his other new film Seven Psychopaths, that the characters in this film could really be the older version of the central characters from that film. Both films are wacky, in the best sense of the word, featuring absurdist scenarios, outrageous violence, and sporadic laugh-out-loud humor. This one was drawn from the first screenplay written by young Noah Haidle, who I imagine was influenced by the films of Quentin Tarantino.
I think that Stand Up Guys, which will receive a 2012 awards qualifying run and then open on Jan. 11, will play especially well with the AARP demographic, the retired folks whose interest has made geriatric comedies like Something's Gotta Give (2003), The Bucket List (2007), and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012) into commercial hits. Indeed, anyone familiar with the earlier work of these three great actors -- who now range in age from 69 (Walken) to 78 (Arkin) -- will get a kick out of seeing them winkingly referencing their younger selves: Pacino firing a tommy-gun, snorting drugs, and dancing and preening like he did in Scarface (1983); Walken delivering his classic oddball looks and one-liners; and Arkin, who makes a late entrance into the film, quietly stealing every scene in which he appears.
Even Juianna Margulies gets in on the fun -- the great and much younger thesp, who made her name on E.R. back in the nineties, agreed to suit up again in an emergency room nurse's uniform in order to play just a small part alongside these guys.
This is not a movie that's going to change the world -- or aspires to -- but it does make for a fun night at the theater. I think that the film and its stars could also wind up as major players at the Golden Globe Awards, which feature separate categories for musicals or comedies and are voted upon by folks who love nothing more than a big name like those associated with this film. Bon Jovi stands a particularly good shot in their best original song category, but also in the Academy's now that the latter group has been shamed into changing the way it selects its nominees after a voting debacle last year led to just two songs making the cut, both of which were rather obscure.