It’s Christmastime 1959 in Baltimore, Maryland. A tight-knit group of friends is preparing for their buddy’s impending wedding — which will only take place if his fiancée passes a massive oral quiz on Baltimore Colts trivia — and whiling away their time in their favorite local haunt, the Fells Point Diner. The group’s gambling-addicted lothario Boogie is in too deep with the local bookie. Burgeoning alcoholic Fenwick drowns his angst and ennui in boozy rebellion. Married Shrevie longs for the easy communication he has with his pals. Soon-to-be-married Eddie has cold feet. And Billy’s come back to town to surprise them all and propose to his longtime platonic friend.
The first in writer/director Barry Levinson’s “Baltimore Films” tetralogy, DINER represents a rose-tinted recollection of the pain and joy of coming to terms with adult responsibility, changing relationships, and the everlasting bonds of male friendship — while also presenting a side-eyed view of the damaging effects of unbridled misogyny. Yeah, we’re talking about the popcorn scene…while also fully acknowledging some of the incredibly strong women who exist in the orbit of this stunted crew of fragile men struggling against the tide of growing older.
Part of the nostalgia-fueled hangout film canon alongside classics like AMERICAN GRAFFITI and DAZED AND CONFUSED, this dated but bittersweet meditation on masculine friendship is perhaps most notable for its outstanding ensemble cast comprised of Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, Kevin Bacon, Timothy Daly, Paul Reiser, Ellen Barkin and last — but certainly not least — Kathryn Dowling.Screening in 35mm
“In conventional dramatic terms, little happens in DINER, but it offers a completed vision of life, ecstatic in its recovery of forgotten pleasures, melancholy in its knowledge of how small a chance these men ever had of claiming their freedom.” —David Denby, New York Magazine
“Barry Levinson's directorial debut from his own Oscar-nominated script remains his most perfectly realised and charming movie and is a fitting eulogy to his hometown of Baltimore.” —David Wood, BBC.com
“DINER is a funny, warm, often poignant, ultimately human film in its implied plea for human freedom from the ‘blessings of civilization.’ Through its numerous parallels and apparent dichotomies, its particularly interesting use of the media as metaphor reveals a film that goes beyond the ‘personal memoir’ genre to which it has been allocated. Within this reading, DINER is political in the sense that it pinpoints the inherent misanthropy of a system — one that victimizes not only women, but also men. In this sense, perhaps men might celebrate a film that addresses ways in which men are also ‘imprisoned.’ Yet perhaps male critics' failure to celebrate DINER beyond the personal memoir, or to reveal their understanding of their own liberation issues, indicates their hesitation to bite the hand of a system that continues to feed them — at least most of the time — and rather well, at that.” —Deborah H. Holdstein, Jump Cut