Overlooked & Underseen: The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)
“What is he, stunads? He’s like a wackadoo."
Is there anything better than 1980’s Mickey Rourke? Well, yes, there is 1980’s Eric Roberts. Between The Pope of Greenwich Village and Bob Fosse’s Star 80 (1983), it’s hard to beat that two-fer right there. Yeah, yeah, but what has he done for me lately? It doesn’t matter because his work in these two films is quite enough, thank you very much.
In The Pope of Greenwich Village, Rourke plays Charlie. He’s Italian (just go with it) and when the film opens, he’s a maître d’ at a posh neighborhood restaurant. Roberts plays his cousin, Paulie (yes, also Italian. Again, just go with it), who works as a waiter in the same restaurant. Charlie seems to be doing okay for himself. He’s apparently doing well enough to buy out an entire stock of the local Chess King. He lives in an okay loft with his girlfriend, Diane, who is smokin’ hot (played by the smokin’ hot 1980’s Daryl Hannah). She’s an aerobics instructor with a heart of gold. No, wait. She’s just an aerobics instructor who wants to move to the country with her man. Is he the guy to give her that dream? Fuck, no. He’s a bit of a gambler (who, apparently does not know when to hold ‘em or fold ‘em because he plays the numbers, bets on horses, etc.).
Charlie don’t surf and Charlie sure as shit does not want to move to Maine. I mean, he says he does but, really, it’s just for her benefit. He’s saddled with an ex-wife and a kid to whom he begrudgingly pays money, so there is that. That relationship might have given Diane a clue but, you know….
Paulie. Oh, where to start with Paulie? He is a bullshitter. That’s just what he is. And he’s always looking for the easy way out. It’s Paulie’s recklessness (i.e. sticky fingers) that gets he and Charlie fired from the restaurant at the start of the film. Charlie’s pretty pissed, but Paulie’s got something else going on. He’s bought a third of a racehorse with two other guys.
He tells Charlie this horse is a dead cert because he’s the offspring of some champeen horse that they stole “jism” from… I mean, I can’t make this shit up. He’s also got this heist he wants to pull off. Oh, oh. Did I forget to mention this is a heist film? It is, technically. The heist takes about 15 minutes of the two hour plus running time, but it’s in there, Trust me.
Paulie has this bright idea to rob a local business, but he needs some help. He enlists Charlie (who has some reservations but, you know, family) and a kindly old Irish guy (the always great Kenneth McMillian) who mends clocks. Well, that and he used to be a safe-cracker. Things do not go well for the three. Let’s just leave it there, shall we?
Paulie pulls Charlie deeper and deeper into the muck and Charlie just keeps going along because Paulie is family. Because of all of Paulie’s shit, Charlie’s life is a mess. He’s out money, Diane locomotes, and he doesn’t have a job. He cares, but he doesn’t. He gets upset at Paulie, yet he won’t cut ties.
What is he, a wackadoo?
Along with the performances already mentioned, a big ol’ boozy shout out has to go to Geraldine Page. Her “two scenes and out” turn as a mother of a sad-sack cop is nothing short of brilliant. When she is on screen, she IS the screen. You aren’t looking at anything or anyone else. So, so good. Even if you don’t like Rourke or Roberts, you should watch the film for Page. Also, Burt Young plays a character named Bedbug Eddie. Intrigued, yet?
Some (yes, only some) of the films I focus on aren’t all 4.5-5 star affairs. I’ve heard people complain The Pope of Greenwich Village meanders about at a leisurely pace. That it isn’t really about anything. That Roberts isn’t good, that Rourke is overrated…
Look, I can’t guarantee you’re gonna love every single film I focus on. I run the gamut from Andy Milligan to Kurosawa. I can’t hit on everyone’s likes each week. All I can do is ask you to give each film a chance.