Friday, September 08, 2006
Punchline is the coming-of-age story of Lilah (Sally Field), a housewife with aspirations to be a stand-up comic, and of Steven (Tom Hanks), a med-school washout with the natural gift for making an audience laugh. He takes Lilah under his wing, dragging her from gig to gig, while Lilah learns ropes, all the while trying to juggle home life—cooking dinner, getting the kids ready for school, and maintaining a relationship with her disapproving husband (John Goodman). It’s a real circus act. In fact, the soundtrack for the madcap dinner preparation is the music from a three-ring circus. You half expect to see trapeze artists doing midair acrobatics. Instead you see the table being set.
Meanwhile, Steven, broke, is fretting about a talent scout who saw his performance and loved it. This could be his big break. And the anticipation is shattering his nerves. The talent scout shows—and Steven chokes. Badly. It’s brutal viewing. To see a man die like that. He eventually breaks down into tears on stage.
But as he star seemingly crashes, Lilah’s begins to rise. She is finding her voice. At the orders of Steven, she discards the hackneyed jokes she’s been using and speaks from the heart, just going with it. She kills. The audience loves her.
The movie climaxes when a contest called “Open Audition” is held. The winner gets a spot on Johnny Carson. Will it be Steven, whose fallen inexplicably in love with Lilah? Or, will it be Lilah, who still loves her husband? Well, I guess I’ll be a jerk and ruin the ending for all of you. But if you don’t wan to know what happens stop reading here. The winner is…drum roll…Lilah. But she turns it down, and walks out—with her hubby. She chooses family life over fame. A smart move. So, instead, second-place Steven get the spot.
The verdict: It’s not the best movie in the world, but it’s worth a watch. Sally Field and Tom Hanks have decent on screen chemistry. Plus, it’s cool seeing all the snippets of other comic’s routines. Some are pretty funny. Seven out of Ten.
View trailer here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095927/trailers