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Based on the stage play by Harvey Fierstein, Torch Song Trilogy tells the story of Arnold Beckoff (Fierstein), a female-impersonator who, after failed relationships, meets true love in Alan (Broderick), a young male model. The two face challenges and bigotry but eventually settle down together and choose to raise a family, seeking adoption. A tragedy occurs and Arnold is met with further strife when his displeasing mother (Anne Bancroft) comes to New York for a visit, frustrated and angered by her son’s lifestyle. Directed by Paul Bogart, the film is significantly cut from the length play, but retains much of the humor and emotion from the theater, which features the same cast. Broderick, for fans of his film work, is far off the path in a brilliant role, compelling as a gay man swept into love with the charismatic Beckoff. Devastatingly authentic, Broderick challenges us, revealing a depth he had yet to express. At home on the stage, where he would spend much of his career outside of film, he brings Alan (named David in the stage version) to life with passion and honesty. It’s a powerful performance that is limited, but one of his best.
A young irresponsible US Airman is assigned to special duty as punishment for misconduct, stationed at a research facility performing experiments with chimpanzees. The military is training the apes to fly aircraft and then exposing them to lethal doses of nuclear radiation to see how long a pilot can last in nuclear fallout. Jimmy Garrett (Broderick) is paired with a particularly intelligent animal that seems to know sign language and against orders, does his own research to find out how. He meets graduate student Teri MacDonald (Helen Hunt), who was the chimp’s teacher but lost funding and was under the impression the animal had gone to a sanctuary. The two then combine their forces to try and rescue the chimpanzees from the facility. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan, Project X is a gripping thriller that loses a bit of steam in the contrived ending, but is sustained by some strong performances. Broderick’s natural boyish innocent-like appeal works very well as he morphs from cocky, self-centered pilot to selfless humanitarian. Spending a lot of time with the chimpanzee, he captures the right tone as the mystery of who his animal partner is and how he came to be at the laboratory unfolds. A unique story marred only by a necessary but absurd ending, the film is long forgotten but one to be watched.
A comedy/drama based on the life of the John Harvey Kellogg (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his push for a more healthy-living lifestyle, Broderick (in a beard – see below) plays William Lightbody, a young wealthy husband to Eleanor (Bridget Fonda). The couple recently lost a child and both suffer ill-health so travel travel to Battle Creek, Michigan to test the resounding claims of better health at Kellogg’s sanitarium, which advocates vegetarianism, colonic irrigation and sexual abstinence, among other techniques. Directed by Alan Parker, the story of Corn Flakes is masked behind a quirky comedy with eccentric characters and often very funny dialog. While admittedly not for everyone, the satire is sharp and the performances perfectly over-the-top. Broderick shines as a man following his wife on her third trip to Kellogg’s, dealing with forced celibacy and the temptations surrounding him, though the absurd machines and routines of the program have him the target of many funny situations. If you can find it, watch it.
A rare romantic comedy for the actor, this one sees Broderick as Sam Lester, a bearded New York single guy working at an upscale delicatessen living in a tiny apartment with an unknown number of roommates (in varying states of undress). He’s able to secure, through a curious rental deal, a nice private place of his own for three days a week, with the other days going to two other tenants he doesn’t know. While he uses the time in the apartment to relax and bring dates, he comes to know the other two incidentally, piecing their personalities together by what they leave behind and do in the apartment while he’s not there. One of them is a rich party boy stock broker (Kevin Anderson) and the other is a gentle woman (Annabella Sciorra) with painting skills. While he’s never met the girl, he develops feeling for her through notes and leftovers. Directed by Warren Leight, this simple but effective love story is better than it appears, with Broderick playing a much more adult character (perhaps the reasoning behind the beard) than he’s been known. Some biting dialog and very funny, genuine moments make this comedy of errors really shine.
Broderick plays Clark Kellogg, a young man in his first year of film school who gets robbed of his belongs at the station on arrival. It’s not long after that he discovers it wasn’t a coincidence when he meets Carmine Sabatini (Marlon Brando), a local ‘importer’ who bears a striking similarity in both appearance and voice, to a certain famous movie godfather. Seeing potential in the college student, he makes him an offer he can’t refuse and soon Clark is smuggling a large Komodo dragon into New Jersey (but only after it escapes and runs amok in a shopping mall). He gets involved with the lovely and eccentric Tina (Penelope Ann Miller), Sabatini’s daughter, and soon he’s up to his ears in an international caper involving endangered species and dinner. Written and directed by Andrew Bergman, this gem is sadly forgotten, a comedic masterpiece that never misses a beat and plays the satire to perfection. Broderick is perfectly cast, again his boyish good-natured appeal the best complement to the overtones of the mobster themes. Don’t let this one fall off your list.