When it comes to underappreciated figures of film, none are more legendary and important than Elaine May. After a successful series of improvisational comedy routines from the 1950s with the late, great Mike Nichols, she later developed a career as a very talented director and screenwriter with a deft and savage eye for complicated relationships. Even with brilliant films such as A New Leaf (1971), The Heartbreak Kid (1972), and her 1976 masterpiece, Mikey and Nicky, she continues to be often overlooked, because apparently, filmmaking only belongs to men. This should never be the case, because when talking about May, you realize how vital and neccessary women filmmakers really are to the history of film.
Mikey and Nicky stars iconic collaborators/friends Peter Falk and John Cassavetes as two men whose lifelong relationship turns sour, in more ways than one. Nicky (Cassavetes) is a disheveled and repugnant drunk hiding out in a hotel room after the mob boss he steals money from puts a hit out on him. He contacts his old friend Mikey (Falk), the one man he thinks can help him. During their 24-hour odyssey, they both set out to help Nicky escape, but what he doesn't know is that Mikey is setting him up by helping a bounty hunter (Ned Beatty) track him. As time is winding, Nicky has one last shot to make amends with the people he has hurt, including his wife and mistress, even if impending doom and a trickey ulcer weighs his down. Having serious doubts, Mikey has to wonder if he is doing the right thing by helping rid the world of a terrible person, or betraying his 'best' friend.
This film was an absolute discovery for me, because I was struck by the sheer grittiness and darkness in the overall plot. The chemistry between Falk and Cassvetes just drips with authenticity and intensity. You feel the hatred and respect between the two of them. There is also the level of dark comedy and uncomfortable realism that is kind of hard to watch, but the since the film, the two leads, and the supporting cast (including Beatty, Joyce Van Patten, Carol Grace, and Rose Arrick) are so dynamic, you just can't look away.
Although the supplements are limited, they are still engaging. They consist of a new program on the making of the film featuring interviews with distributor Julian Schlossberg and actress Van Patten; new interviews with film critics Richard Brody and Carrie Rickey; an audio interview from 1976 with Falk; a trailer; and tv spots. There is also a great new essay by critic Nathan Rabin.
This review for the film may be a glowing one, but I can't help it. I really loved this film! Ms. May should be unanimously acclaimed and praised for her uncompromising storytelling and singular savagery of how she puts people, especially men under the microscope and exposes their deepest, darkest flaws. Ironically enough, she could be considered the "female Cassavetes" because they both understand humanity the way that no other filmmakers have before or since. I definitely give this film my seal of sheer approval.