I’m not a film critic. I’ve probably only seen a couple hundred movies in my life, and that’s a whole lot fewer than most, I suspect. So what I have to say about it might be of zero consequence, but I gotta talk about The Color of Money.
An article I read the other day referenced Scorcese’s 1986 film and I thought to myself, “Oh, yeah… The Color of Money. I should watch that.” Today has me feeling really puny, so my evening was me, tea, and a $2.99 YouTube rental of the classic pool shark vs. pool shark tale based on the novel by Walter Tevis. (I could get used to this, too; getting into bed and watching a streaming movie on a laptop balanced on one’s chest is one of the greatest things about being alive in 2016.)
It’s just a damn good movie. I’d pay a lot of money to watch Paul Newman and Tom Cruise just sit in chairs and make facial expressions, but in The Color of Money they do so much more. If you could bottle the swagger between them it would be do more damage than nuclear fission. Newman plays Fast Eddie, a first-rate but aged pool hall hustler. Eddie discovers Vince (Cruise), and takes him under his dark hustler wing. They go play in the fields of billiards and no one in their wake is safe.
Eddie teaches Vince his tricks. But then Vince plays Eddie. But then Eddie plays Vince right back. Turnabout, turnabout again. Newman — who, it cannot be denied, bears an eerie resemblance to my ex-father-in-law it almost ruined it for me — is so manipulative, so “Daddy knows best,” so “Let them hate so long as they fear” about everything you just hate him. But you find yourself desperate for his approval, just like Vince. And Paul Newman is my favorite male movie star of all time. I don’t think you can beat Newman for sex appeal, talent, and charisma. But Tom Cruise… I hardly have words. He was 24 when he made that movie. Twenty-four. He is boyish sex incarnate. He’s pure hormones. Phermones. It’s hot in here, I can’t think straight. Jesus, take the wheel!
But then there’s the girl. Yeah, the girl. An achingly young and pretty — but fierce — Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is Vince’s girlfriend and I realized that she is a Disney princess in human form in that movie. Watch it; you’ll see that I am right. Her character is great: layered, conflicted. One wonders if the film had a sequel, we’d learn Carmen was the one playing the boths of ’em.
Perhaps the single most compelling reason to watch this movie asap is this: those boys are actually playing killer pool. Newman and Cruise can play the game for real. I said “Waaaat??” several times over the course of the movie; you can’t believe you’re seeing what you’re seeing. Tom actually sinks an eight-ball while he’s looking in the other direction, being adorable. There are dozens of sequences that are filmed in one take and you see shot after successful shot pulled off by these impossibly beautiful men who are supposed to be acting. Fabulous.
It’s funny and depressing to note that when this movie would play on cable when I was in high school, I distinctly remember thinking, “In no universe will I ever be interested in a movie about pool. Ugh!”
That was a long time ago, Eddie.