The Men's Club | Chicago Reader

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Leonard Michaels's evanescent novel, about a group of men who get together for an evening of middle-class consciousness-raising, and not incidentally to swap embarrassing stories about women, sex, and operational failure, has been fattened up for the screen (Michaels himself wrote the screenplay), though predictably in ways that coarsen the material and turn its slender insights toward a crude and easy moralism. Director Peter Medak (The Ruling Class) contents himself with presenting his characters as blunt stereotypes, all with calculatedly dark undersides that conveniently reveal themselves in the evening's course (mostly in a gratuitously inserted whorehouse segment that seems at odds with the moralizing sentiment). There's no formal stylization to speak of, but this is, after all, a film about performances, and Medak simply points his camera at the actors and lets them chew away. Some of the chewers are better than others, and Harvey Keitel and Frank Langella especially, coming from opposite poles of intensity and languor, deliver the honest emotional goods. With Roy Scheider (the film's steady anchor), David Dukes, Richard Jordan, Treat Williams, Craig Wasson, Stockard Channing, and Ann Wedgeworth.

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