Francis Coppola’s stylish and heartfelt tribute to the innovative automobile designer Preston Thomas Tucker turns out to be one of his most personal and successful movies. While the tone throughout is basically light, the overall treatmentincluding effective uses of 40s decor, big band music, charismatic performances, and zippy pacingmakes it euphoric. Coppola’s own personal investment in the story (his father invested in Tucker’s cars, and he clearly identifies with many aspects of Tucker’s idealism) gives it an undeniable lift, and Jeff Bridges (as Tucker) and Martin Landau (as his business partner) are especially good in sustaining the movie’s overall high. While the populist orientation of the movie, which relates to Tucker’s extended family as well as his ideals, isn’t delved into very deeplyand the darkness of the ethics of American big business is treated so perfunctorily that it counts for little more than comic shadingCoppola makes the most of his nostalgic Norman Rockwell depiction of benign American individualism. Scripted by Arnold Schulman and David Seidler; with Joan Allen, Frederic Forrest, Mako, and Dean Stockwell (in a fanciful cameo as Howard Hughes), and superb production design and cinematography by Dean Tavoularis and Vittorio Storaro respectively, as well as some inventive camera staging by Coppola. (JR)

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