Saturday 22 June 2024

Movie Review: The Competition (1980)

Genre: Romance  
Director: Joel Oliansky  
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Amy Irving, Lee Remick, Sam Wanamaker  
Running Time: 126 minutes  

Synopsis: Aspiring concert pianist Paul (Richard Dreyfuss) is running out of time to fulfill his potential. Still supported by his parents, he always places well but is never able to win a major competition. The prestigious Hillman competition in San Francisco may be his final opportunity. One of the other competitors is Heidi (Amy Irving), who is coached by renowned piano teacher Greta (Lee Remick). Although attracted to Heidi, Paul acts cold to avoid distractions. But when the final performances are postponed for a week, Paul and Heidi have time to fall in love.

What Works Well: The conflict between pressure-to-succeed and finding the right soulmate at the wrong time provides a spark. The classical music milieu is an elegant setting for a romance and both Richard Dreyfus and Amy Irving do well to energetically simulate playing complex piano pieces. They are surrounded by scenic San Francisco locations and a colourful cast of supporting characters. Lee Remick as Heidi's piano teacher, Sam Wanamaker as the conductor who needs to accommodate all the competitors, and the other four finalists all provide appreciable texture.

What Does Not Work As Well: Director Joel Oliansky also wrote the script, and displays an annoying tendency to run and hide from difficult conversations, finding reasons to interrupt dialogue scenes at crucial moments. While understandable that time is needed for the music performances, the length of over two hours remains bloated given the subject matter. With his erratic emotions and obnoxious behaviour, Paul is an unattractive romantic subject, while a defection-and-sickness sub-plot involving an Eastern European pianist is handled with dismissive clumsiness.

Conclusion: Mixes legato with atonal.

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