When shy Larry Hubbard finds his girlfriend in bed with another man he is forced to begin a new life as single. But since he can't bear being on his own he tries to court Iris who is not however interested in him. Larry begins writing a book on his experience as a single which unexpectedly becomes a best seller. He becomes rich and famous and even his relationship with Iris can begin on a new basis.
Watching THE LONELY GUY, 27 years after is was made gives you a lot of perspective on today's popular comedies. There's a lot of Steve Martin in the Ben Stiller or Will Ferrell comedies of today. Zany plot situations that are a step removed from reality but still have the human element of sadness, laughter and in the case of this film, loneliness.
They say the art of comedy is mixing LAUGHTER and SADNESS into the soup of the story. And the more sad the conflicts and situations are with the main characters, the more the audience will laugh and the better the comedy movie will be.
Loneliness is a depressing thing to talk about, but it's something almost all of us have gone through. We seem to have a hard time connecting with other people and there is a hole in our heart. And we end up doing the craziest of things in order to NOT feely lonely. When you're alone, you are a vulnerable. And when you're vulnerable, you're not at your best. And when you're not at your best, you make poor choices that makes things worse. So how do you get out of it? That's the story of THE LONELY GUY. And it's the perfect story to make a comedy about.
Bruce Jay Friedman is the author of this idea as it's based on a novel he wrote. Friedman's fingerprints have been on a lot of Hollywood comedies because the guy is just pain clever. Friedman also is the creator of the recent Ben Stiller acted comedy, THE HEARTBREAK KID, based on a short story he wrote.
Heartbreak Kid and THE LONELY GUY have a lot in common. Well the first thing they have in common is that both films failed commercially at the box office. People didn't go see the film (or not enough) despite the creative talent around it. And both films are about loneliness and the struggles of the lead character to be with that girl they know they love. Problem is that there is the conflict of someone being married to another person.
I wondered why both of these films failed because I really enjoyed them and thought they were both very clever movies. Perhaps too clever. I tend to think that if THE LONELY GUY was made today (2011), starring someone like Will Ferrell or even Stiller, that it would be a big hit. Zany comedies like this do very well in today's mentality, but were thought of as being TOO WEIRD in the 1980s world. People wanted straightforward comedy then as it's what they were seeing on their favorite TV shows like The Cosby Show, and Family Ties. Even Saturday Night Live, some say is the trend setter for comedy, was doing straight up funny bits on their show then as they let Eddie Murphy or Billy Crystal do their thing. Comedy that was comedy star driven and not plot or situation driven.
And I tend to think that The Heartbreak Kid, a complete bomb in 2007, despite starring the biggest comedy star at the time in Stiller, plus directed by the very successful team of the Farrelly Brothers, who made the most successful comedy of all time just years before in There's Something About Mary, would be a gigantic success in 1984, when THE LONELY GUY came out. People just didn't want to watch an almost unlikable leading man in the comedy genre as they were seeing too much of that in the drama movies and TV shows they saw. (See the list of all the drama HBO, AMC or SHOWTIME shows from 2000 to 2011 and you'll see that almost everyone of them has a bad, sketchy and/or criminal in the starring role.) Audience want funny but morally likeable leading men in today's comedy movies.
Back in 1984, audiences would of loved Steve Martin in the role of the Heartbreak Kid, attempting to break up with the woman he just married in order for him to court the woman he fell for on his honeymoon. In the 1980s, people loved the jerky comedy romantic leading man and Steve Martin was fantastic at playing it. It's what Eddie Murphy and Bill Murray were doing in all of their roles.
THE LONELY GUY is almost a brilliant film. It was just made in the wrong era. Too bad we can't switch the two films.