My father was born and raised in New York City. He idolized, among others, Sid Caesar, Walt Kelly, and Adlai Stevenson. As his son, I campaigned for Mondale/Ferraro when I was in the 8th grade, drew anti-Reagan political cartoons for my social studies class, and hung a huge Keith Haring "Free South Africa" poster in my bedroom. My stepfather, the son of a Connecticut farmer, served in the Coast Guard, worked as a banker, and read Tom Clancy novels. He and I didn't have much in common, though occasionally we made clumsy efforts to connect, like when I asked him how he liked the movie Diner. I was hopeful. But a sour look crossed his face and he said, with no little irritation, that the movie was just about a bunch of jerks sitting around wasting time.
Technically, he may have been right. But didn't he know that I wanted to be—no:aspired to be—one of those jerks? Didn't he think they were hilarious? He did not, and it would be a long time before we brokered a kind of peace with each other.
But Diner, I'm happy to say, more than holds up; it is as true and funny as it was when it was released in 1982. If you've never seen it, you are in for a treat. And if it is an old favorite, this insightful review by James Wolcott ("French Fries and Sympathy")—originally published in Texas Monthly, featured in his superb collection Critical Mass, and reprinted at the Daily Beast over the weekend with the author's permission—will make you want to watch it again.