Clubland

Character actor Saul Rubinek (Unforgiven, True Romance) made an intriguing directorial debut with 1998's Jerry And Tom, a Quentin Tarantino-derived mobster comedy distinguished by abundant atmosphere, terrific performances, and an actor's knack for treasuring individual moments rather than building toward a cohesive whole. Jerry And Tom didn't really go anywhere, but it had a terrific time meandering, and it suggested that Rubinek had considerable promise as a filmmaker. Rubinek's debut, not surprisingly, pegged him as an actor's director, but his obvious affection for his peers should have stopped short of inspiring him to choose fellow actor Steven Weber's script for his next project. Best known for his seeming eternity on the widely tolerated sitcom Wings, Weber wrote Rubinek's Clubland and also stars as a good-natured, womanizing, Eisenhower-era talent agent who struggles to emerge from his legendary father's shadow. Alan Alda co-stars as Weber's boss and father, whose overbearing personal and professional style has driven away many of his clients. As the volcanic Alda struggles to hold onto clients such as a Don Rickles-esque insult comic (Brad Garrett), Weber tries to show his dad he's cut out for the trade, when he's not flirting with a coat-check girl (Jenna Byrne) who doubles as Weber's amateur therapist, mother figure, and redemption. Playing a show-business Willy Loman, Alda confuses quantity for quality: He acts as if acting were an Olympic sport, and he's bucking for the gold medal. Not surprisingly, Weber can't compete. Whenever the two share the screen—as when they deliver a good-cop/bad-cop routine to David Deblinger, a Weber army buddy trying to hack it as a comedian—Alda negates his co-star. Deblinger's less psychotic Rupert Pupkin figure is a lot like the film itself: He has moxie, ambition, and heart, but doesn't have the material to go far. Blandly avuncular under the best circumstances, Weber has chosen a compelling locale for his screenwriting debut, but he's populated Clubland with characters and conflicts straight out of a third-rate Neil Simon play.

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