Mikey and Nicky (January 7/05)
There's absolutely no mistaking Mikey and Nicky for anything other than a product of the '70s, as the film is peppered with a variety of prototypical elements from that decade. Writer/director Elaine May expectedly eschews overt style in favor of a more naturalistic vibe, which makes sense given her success as a screenwriter (she's only directed four movies in her career, including the infamous disaster Ishtar).
The film stars Peter Falk as Mikey and John Cassavetes as Nicky, whose 30 year friendship is put to the ultimate test during one very long night. Nicky has become convinced that the mob has put a hit out on him, a reasonable fear given that he's embezzled thousands of dollars. Mikey humors his friend by helping him get out of town, though there are a number of stops to be made before that can happen (ie the two have a long chat at a cemetery).
May generally eschews plot in favor of character development and dialogue, something that works thanks mostly to the genuine chemistry between Falk and Cassavetes. That Falk and Cassavetes were buddies in real life only adds to the sense of camaraderie between these guys; their banter never feels forced, often coming off as spontaneous (no small feat given how little of this dialogue was improvised). More impressive is the fact that the film's lack of story elements never becomes oppressive, though the easy-going tone does mean that certain sequences work better than others (an encounter with a friendly hooker doesn't seem to serve any purpose other than to kill some time).
As expected, the film eventually fizzles out; the freewheeling tone goes from intriguing to maddening, something that's exacerbated by the separation of Mikey and Nicky in the movie's third act. Having said that, it's difficult not to admire the performances and May's dialogue - though there's no denying that Mikey and Nicky isn't quite the classic it's been made out to be.