So Fine (1981)
Despite spending much of the ’70s at the top of Hollywood’s A-list, you don’t hear much about Ryan O’Neal these days. His great work in such films as What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon and Barry Lyndon seems to have been completely undone by the string of lackluster failures that followed them, as well the fact that all evidence points to his being an utterly worthless human being.
Yet as big of a hitting-on-his-own-daughter-at-his-famous-girlfriend’s-funeral sleazeball he may be, there’s no denying that he once possessed a certain charm that made him a compelling and likeable onscreen presence. Evidence of which can be found in So Fine, one of the early ’80s flops that marked the beginning of his slow decline into tabloid obscurity. The directorial debut of once-promising comedy director/screenwriter Andrew Bergman (whose own career was sidelined by the one-two disasters of Striptease and Isn’t She Great), So Fine is an often funny contemporary evocation of ’40s screwball comedy.
O’Neal plays Bobby Fine, an English professor at a stuffy New England college who is literally kidnapped to work for his father’s (a hilarious Jack Warden) struggling clothing company at the behest of a behemoth loan shark named Big Eddie (Richard Kiel). When Bobby is introduced to Eddie’s hot Italian wife (Lina Wertmüller regular Mariangela Melato), it’s lust at first sight and many amusing complications — including the invention of a revolutionary new fashion style — ensue.
While nowhere up to the level of His Girl Friday or Bringing Up Baby, So Fine is a fun, refreshing return to the screwball formula that promises the sight of Jaws in blackface singing Verdi’s Otello, a brilliantly droll performance by Ed Gwynne as O’Neal’s stuffy academic boss, and lots of pretty girl in assless jeans. What’s not to like? Besides O’Neal being such an epic douchebag offscreen, of course. —Allan Mott