Saturday, May 15, 2021

Tough to Review

A couple of months back, I did a post on The TAMI Show, the sort of movie that's difficult to review, and even more difficult to do a synopsis on. After all, it's just a concert movie, and whether you'll like it depends a whole lot on what sort of music you like. A similar movie is Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip, which is getting an airing tomorrow at 3:30 AM on The Movie Channel. (It's also got a few more airings later in the week on various parts of the Showtime family.)

In December of 1981, comedian Richard Pryor gave some sold out performances at the Palladium theater on Los Angeles' Sunset Blvd. Director Joe Layton filmed them and edited them together into the movie we have. (I figured that even with the number of cameras Layton had, it had to be a composite from multiple shows; IMDb says the most obvious sign is in Pryor's handkerchief.)

Pryor covers a wide range of topics, starting with relationships; going to discussion of a trip to Africa as a black man; working as a young man being an MC in a Mob-owned nightclub; and, finally, ending the show with discussion of his cocaine addiction and, most notably, the accident he had trying to light cocain for freebasing in which he severely burned himself.

Thankfully, the sort of material Pryor proffers dates much less than people like the interminably unfunny Mark Russell, who had satirical material based on current events. Still, even though we know when watching old movies with story lines that it doesn't necessarily matter if some of the comedy seems old-fashioned, with stand-up it still seems different. There are a few references to Presidents Carter and Reagan at the beginning, but after that, it's more about Pryor's own life experiences, which sound as though they're just suitably far in some unspecified past, just like any memoir.

My personal feeling was that the movie started off rather slowly, which is a bit of a problem since 78 minutes is more than long enough for a stand-up comedy set and the best material comes toward the end. This includes the parts about the Mob, as well as all of the cocaine-related stuff.

If you've never actually seen any of Richard Pryor's stand-up, give it a try. Just be warned that there's a lot of talk about sex as well as bad language, so it's not exactly a family-friendly movie.

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