In the mould of American Graffiti, Next Stop, Greenwich Village is a nostalgia flashback to one of those special times and places – in this case, Greenwich Village, New York in 1953.
Larry Lapinsky (Lenny Baker), a 22-year-old Jewish boy, leaves his home in Brooklyn to live the good life of the Village and try to become a movie star.
The coffee bars are the places to be seen, everyone wants to act or paint or write, they hold “rent parties” where people contribute to keep away the landlord, and people attempt suicide.
Lenny Baker as Lapinsky is not all that credible because he is certainly not glamorous physically, at a time when all the big stars had to look like William Holden or Rock Hudson, or some other representative of the tall, well-toothed, suntanned American dream. He also overacts at times, to an embarrassing degree.
Paul Mazursky’s direction does impart a strong flavour of Greenwich Village, even if some of the situations have become cliches.
For example, we go through the “Larry, I’ve got to talk to you – What’s wrong? – I’m pregnant – Are you sure? – Of course, I’m sure – Have you seen a doctor? – What are we going to do?” charade. It’s so predictable, and yet somehow doesn’t detract.
The undoubted highlight of the film is Shelley Winters, gone to seed, as the possessive Jewish momma with the wonderful talent of being able to burst into the most hellish hysteria at any given moment, usually just to make things difficult when she is leaving, or her son is leaving.
Next Stop, Greenwich Village does not quite achieve what it sets out to do, but is nevertheless good-hearted and has its delicate moments. What it lacks is an understanding of its main characters. They are not explained sufficiently, so we find it difficult to sympathise at moments when we are apparently meant to.
Bill Murray appears uncredited in his first feature film. Four years later he would be starring in Caddyshack.
John C Becher
John Ford Noonan