Taglines: The Pick-Up Artist… has finally met his match.
Randy Jensen is a smart, independent tour guide who beats womanizer Jack Jericho at his own game. After a quick fling, her indifference only causes him to become smitten with her. Randy is too busy for romance, trying to keep her alcoholic gambler father, Flash Jensen, out of harm’s way. Jack’s persistence soon pays off when he offers to help rescue Randy’s dad from the mob.
The Pick-up Artist is a 1987 American romantic-comedy film written and directed by James Toback, starring Molly Ringwald, Robert Downey Jr., Dennis Hopper, Danny Aiello, Mildred Dunnock, Harvey Keitel, Vanessa Williams, Tamara Bruno, Polly Draper and Angie Kempf.
Film Review for The Pick-Up Artist
Watch the actors’ lips as they deliver their lines in “The Pickup Artist,” which opens today at the Criterion Center and other theaters, and you’ll sometimes see them mouthing words that didn’t make it into the finished film. Something seems to have happened en route to the screen. “The Pickup Artist” is extremely brief -under 90 minutes – and a good deal tamer than the earlier works of James Toback, who wrote “The Gambler” and directed “Fingers,” “Love and Money” and “Exposed,” films not known for the kind of nice-guy romantic humor he displays this time. It’s hard to know how “The Pickup Artist” started out, but there must have been more to it than now meets the eye.
Robert Downey stars as Jack Jericho, who makes a career of comparing women to various works of art and seems to have a not-bad track record, under the circumstances. He plies his trade up and down Columbus Avenue, operating out of a red convertible equipped with a ready-made ticket, in case he must park quickly in an emergency. After a period of observing Jack Jericho’s methods, the film introduces him to Randy Jensen (Molly Ringwald), who’s a lot better at this sort of thing than he is. Randy allows herself to be propositioned, shares a quick and rather dispassionate tryst in his convertible, and then refuses to give him her phone number.
On the fringes of all this, brandishing a fly-swatter, is Dennis Hopper, who plays Randy’s alcoholic father and seems a lot more in keeping with Mr. Toback’s earlier work. So does Harvey Keitel, as a businessman-gangster to whom Randy’s father owes money; nobody can slam a door quite as ferociously as Mr. Keitel can. Randy has ideas about how to raise the sum and pay back the debt, rejecting the gangster’s suggestion that she sleep with a very rich Colombian who is mad for her. ”For me, sex and money just don’t mix,” Randy says.
The film roams from the Upper West Side to Coney Island to Atlantic City, maintaining a lighthearted style that doesn’t quite match the hints of obsessiveness in Mr. Toback’s screenplay. For one thing, Jack and Randy are meant to connect instantaneously with the kind of urgency that never comes through here; when Jack finally talks about love as a gamble, the speech seems a good deal more passionate than the action that has preceded it. For another, Mr. Downey is likable but lacks the fast-talking hucksterism that ought to go with his character. When delivering Jack Jericho’s trademark pickup speeches, he never sounds entirely comfortable.
Miss Ringwald seems much more assured and less pouty than she has in earlier films, projecting the sweetness and confident sensuality that the role demands. Among the film’s other assets are a lively rock soundtrack (with a title song written by Stevie Wonder) and a supporting cast including Mildred Dunnock, who gives a brief, lovely performance as Jack’s grandmother. Hovering on the periphery in very small roles are Vanessa Williams, Jilly Rizzo and Robert Towne, among many others.
The Pick-Up Artist (1987)
Directed by: James Toback
Starring: Molly Ringwald, Robert Downey Jr., Dennis Hopper, Danny Aiello, Mildred Dunnock, Harvey Keitel, Vanessa Williams, Tamara Bruno, Polly Draper, Angie Kempf
Screenplay by: James Toback
Production Design by: Paul Sylbert
Cinematography by: Gordon Willis
Film Editing by: David Bretherton, Angelo Corrao
Costume Design by: Colleen Atwood
Set Decoration by: Alan Hicks
Art Direction by: Bill Groom
Music by: Georges Delerue
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: September 18, 1987