Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Sunday, November 30, 2014

'Mr. Sycamore' is the tale of a man who wants to make like a tree...

Mr. Sycamore (1974)
Starring: Jason Robards, Sandy Dennis, Jean Simmons, Robert Easton, and Brenda Smith
Director: Pancho Kohner
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A mail carrier and discouraged poet (Robards) decides to escape his dreary life by transforming himself into a tree.

There are a rare few bad movies that still manage to hold your attention, even though they are dull and made duller by the fact that 45 minutes of material had to stretched to fill feature-film length. "Mr. Sycamore" is one such picture.

This could perhaps have been an interesting episode in a television anthology series, or perhaps as one of several episodes in an anthology film, but there simply wasn't enough substance to fill a feature. So, the audience is subjected to a pointless slapstick sequence involving two milk trucks, an almost as pointless dream sequence, and a storm as the film reaches its climax that is drawn out to the point where it blunts whatever impact it may have had.

It's a shame that the screenwriters and director didn't manage to translate the play they were adapting more effectively to the screen. Perhaps they could have done so if they hadn't hewn so close to the source material -- most scenes feel like they are were transcribed directly from the play and the actors likewise seem like they are doing a play rather than a movie. I don't mean that in the sense that they are "playing to the back rows" but rather that there is a formality and a "I say my line, you say your line, I say my next line" to their performances.

With a more effective script, "Mr. Sycamore" could have been a fabulous--if odd-- picture. It is consistently visually interesting and it features a powerhouse cast of actors that are all perfect for the roles they play. The visuals and the performances will keep you watching, even as you realize that this picture will ultimately make you wish you have those minutes of your life back. 

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