XIPHOS AND the QUICK AND DIRTY HIT #5: THE FLAMINGO KID

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Pardon me for hijacking my own series here but for the next bunch of these Quick and Dirty Hits I’m doing I will be reviewing movies that were important in forming the unfocused mind of a young Xiphos. I won’t be doing this in any way approaching any sort of order, just how they occur to me. For instance we are starting with the overlooked and almost forgotten underrated classic coming of age tale from 1984, The Flamingo Kid starring Matt Dillon The next installment, I think, is going to be the Burt Reynolds/Hal Needham stuntman movie from 1978, Hooper. See different genre, different decades.

cse9fwbolypelopfI used to own this video tape and wore it out because I liked this movie so much. For years it was my ‘go to’ comfort tape, I threw it in as background noise when I was bored, when the weather was bad, late at night when I was still drunk and trying not puke and the bed was spinning too hard to even pass out on. In short, I like the movie, oddly though, after I lost my video tape I never replaced it and haven’t thought about the movie in a long, long time. That is until a few days ago at dinner when I was talking to a semi cool (for an MP) chick Marine Staff Sergeant about Entourage and specifically Johnny Drama, played by Matt Dillon’s younger brother. I started thinking how I haven’t seen Matt Dillon in anything in a long time so I went to IMDB to look at what he’s been up to lately.

As I was looking at his page it struck me that Dillon had, in the 1980’s, one of the strongest runs of excellence as an actor that I think I have ever seen. Starting with his debut in 1979 with Over The Edge to 1989’s Drug Store Cowboy, Dillon never turned in one bad or unbelievable performance even when he was in cruddy movies. During that run he deflowered Kristy McNichol in Little Darlings, got his ass kicked by Adam Baldwin in My Bodyguard (soon to be reviewed), was absolutely perfect in three S.E. Hinton book adaptations and robbed pharmacy’s and boned Kelly Lynch in Drug Store Cowboys. As I was looking over Dillon’s impressive run, I began feeling nostalgic about what is arguably Dillon’s best role The Flamingo Kid.

The Flamingo Kid is a sweet, simple but elegantly told coming of age story set in 1963 Long Island, New York. The story mostly takes place at a posh summer beach club called The Flamingo where Dillon’s character, Jeffery Willis, gets a job much to the chagrin of his hard working plumber father, Arthur Willis, played by the excellent and underrated Hector Elizondo.  Jeffery is a good kid and blessed with some mathematical ability. He is the first member of his extended working class family to get accepted to college to study engineering starting in the fall. Arthur is a proud working man and is determined to teach his son the value of hard work and doing a good job. To this end he has arranged with the Brooklyn Union Hall, were he works, for Jeffery to be a plumbers assistant for the summer. Jeffery has other ideas though because he’s made some rich friends from playing cards and due to his math gifts, has won at a lot. The rich kids told him about the money he could make and the hot girls he could meet, two things any 18 year old kid would kill for, if he got a job at their swanky beach club out on Long Island, so Jeffery defies his father for the first time and gets a job as a cabana boy at the Flamingo.

The job is an eye opener for Jeffery since club life is 180 degrees the other direction from his working class Brooklyn neighborhood. It’s the first time in Jeffery’s life he can see there is a different world past the one preached by his father. It also doesn’t hurt that he starts to make some serious money (due to his work ethic) from tips and cards, nearly as much as his father makes. Plus there are hot girls all over the place, like Janet Jones (nice pull 99!) which he manages to somehow land. Jeffery is having the time of his life. While working at the club Jeffery meets the other formative force in his young life, Phil Brody, played to perfection by Col. Trautmen himself, the most excellent Richard Crenna. Brody might just be one of Crenna’s finest roles. Brody is everything that Jeffery’s father isn’t which leads to the eventual tug of war between the two over the heart, mind, soul and future of Jeffery. Brody is a highly successful car salesman that married into money. Brody is brash, venal, the center of attention sort of guy who is glib, slick and all surface with no depth. To a working man like Arthur, Phil Brody represents everything that is wrong with not actually working for a living. It also doesn’t help that Brody came from the same background as Arthur and Jeffery. The other thing that really captures Jeffery’s fancy is that Brody is almost preternaturally gifted at playing Gin Rummy in the high stakes all summer long game, which is a major plot point of the movie. Jeffery gets blinded by Phil, his money, his lifestyle, card skill and most importantly his niece Carla Sampson played by Janet Jones. Fireworks erupt between Jeffery and Arthur culminating in Jeffery moving out of the apartment and telling his old man that he is going to work for Phil Brody and not going to school in the fall.

flamingo scooter

It’s at that point that Jeffery also starts to figure out that Phil is a complete and utter tool, a liar and a scumbag as a human being and figures out a way to serve a nice hot steaming bowl of comeuppance to Ol’ Phil. There, that’s the story in broad strokes.

This movie is supremely well written and directed by Gary Marshall. Marshall found a story template and ideas that he will use over and over again in future movies most notably in Pretty Woman. DON’T let that turn you off to The Flamingo Kid! The movie is great, the acting superb, the story compelling, often funny, insightful, poignant and very watchable. The movie wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve without being cloying or schmaltzy. It is unabashedly and apologetically straight forward and since it was made in 1984, lacks entirely any sense of post modern horseshit and it’s totally free of irony, which is quite refreshing.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. If you have not seen it give it look or if it’s been awhile, give it another spin. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised just how well crafted The Flamingo Kid is.

Xiphos

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About Xiphos0311

Sporadic genius but mostly IDGAF.

30 responses to “XIPHOS AND the QUICK AND DIRTY HIT #5: THE FLAMINGO KID”

  1. Jarv says :

    I think I’ve seen this, but don’t remember it. Dillon should have been massive, I wonder how he fucked it up.

    Elizondo was really good in Turbulence Taking of Pelham 123 as well.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      I’m not sure why either. Maybe if you have a run like he did for a decade you just sort of run out, maybe? he done some good work here and there but he never was able to do what he did in the 80’s.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Elizondo has always been solid in everything does. He has a certain believability in the his roles. He was the best thing about Pretty Woman.

    • tombando says :

      Last things that Dillon was in that I remember…are from the 90’s–that one w/ Nicole Kidman that aped the Pam Smart case, and Wild Things. He was also busted for doing about 105 on I-91 in Vermont about 2 hours n of here a couple years back too.

      He’d work playing a sleazy PI on TV I think. Dig up Ken Wahl and have at it guys.

  2. just pillow talk says :

    I know I’ve seen parts of this movie, but never the whole thing.
    I think the last thing I saw Dillon in was Armored, which wasn’t that good.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      It really is a good movie considering it started it’s life as a standard paint by numbers sort of coming of age story but it transcended its humble origins.

      • just pillow talk says :

        I’ll have to give it another look one of these days, especially if I ever run across it on tv.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Good luck finding this on TV i don’t think they ever replay it.

        Speaking of TV there is a show I would suggest you check out it’s called The League a half hour comedy about 4 goofballs that play fantasy football. It funny as hell you’ll get the sports references and you have got to know dudes that are into fantasy football so you’ll get a kick out of the characters.

  3. Continentalop says :

    Man, I got to watch this movie again. It always struck home with me because when I was a teenager I was working during the summer at a place called Lord Fletcher’s on Lake Minnetonka, where all the rich people hanged out with their boats. The movie captured the same tone as that place had.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      It’s a good movie all the way around. It feels i don’t know authentic, maybe?

      • Continentalop says :

        I think the word “authentic” could describe all of Dillon’s 80s movies. Everything he did or was in felt real IMO.

  4. Continentalop says :

    And can I say “Fuck yeah!” for HOOPER?

  5. Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

    Love the concept for this one. I’ve watched a pretty eclectic bunch of crap in my formative years too. Might do this one too (he says!). Then I can extole the virtues of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas for the discerning mind 😉

  6. tombando says :

    I own the DVD of this–it holds up awfully well. The one thing that stands out esp. is the pride in his job/his station in life that Hector Elizondo displays thruout, which is something that is nigh impossible to drum into his son Matt’s head. Elizondo plays this honest, true, believable(We’re gonna have Spaghetti!), you just wanna reach out and belt Troutman when he starts patronizing Elizondo about where his son should work for the summer etc.

    This is one of those movies that simply rings true, in a way that Cokey, for example, cannot fathom nor copy. I happily am doing the ‘what Xiphos sez’ routine on this because he’s right. This one’s great.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Thanks Tom.

      It’s good to hear the movie holds up. I figured it would but I haven’t seen it in about 5 years, at least. Most of these reviews I have coming up are from memory.

      The dynamic between Crenna and Elizondo was handled just about perfectly both really nailed their characters and they both played off great against Dillon and how he played Jeffery, there wasn’t a false note in the bunch. Man this is a fine movie and I think I would be remiss in not mentioning Jessica Walter as Mrs Brody. Her condescending image conscious wife was a riot. It’s just a really well made movie.

      • tombando says :

        Oh yes she’s good too. I like the little gag of watching Troutman watch himself on TV, clicking by ‘the Real McCoys’! Funny. Oooo a remote! in 1963–the man was advanced.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Was the remote control attached to the TV by a wire Tom?

  7. Droid says :

    I haven’t seen this flick. But it sounds okay. I like Dillon. He was genius in Theres Something About Mary. Very good in Drugstore Cowboy. And of course, WILD THINGS FTW!!! Looking at his CV, there’s loads of his movies I haven’t seen. Might give a few a look over the next few months.

  8. ThereWolf says :

    I’ve seen ‘Flamingo Kid’ but alas cannot remember much about it. Therefore requires another viewing.

    I recall Dillon being in a lot of stuff back then, Elizondo too. Both underrated performers.

    Good stuff, Xi.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      If it’s time for another view then your in for a treat Wolf.

      I agree Dillon and Elizondo are entirely underrated actors.

      Thanks.

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