Tough Guys Don T Dance Review Essay
Norman Mailer wrote and directed this demented film noir, which takes place in a Provincetown of perpetual twilight. Most of the tale, based on his best-selling novel, is told in flashback as Dougy Madden (Lawrence Tierney) pays a visit to his son Tim (Ryan O'Neal). Dougy, a tough ex-bartender, is ravaged by cancer and decides to see Tim one last time in order. But Tim is suffering both from writer's block and from the effects of too many years of drink, drugs, and sex. His sexy wife Patty Lariene (Debra Sandlund) has recently left him and disappeared. Even worse, one morning he awakens from his stupor to find the front seat of his car covered with blood and a severed head inside his drug stash. He tries to rekindle a relationship with his ex-wife Madeleine (Isabella Rossellini), now married to the psychotic Provincetown police chief, Alvin Luther Regency (Wings Hauser), and he re-acquaints himself with old prep school friend Wardley Meeks III (John Bedford Lloyd), who was also married to the missing Patty Lareine. As the murders pile up and Tim's psyche takes a beating, Dougy decides to help Tim put an end to this chaotic mess of murders.
R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Media Home Entertainment
A dark, brilliant novel of astonishing pitch, set in Provincetown, a "spit of shrub and dune" captured here in the rawness and melancholy of the off-season, "Tough Guys Don't Dance" is the story of Tim Madden, an unsuccessful writer addicted to bourbon, cigarettes, and blonde, careless women with money. On the twenty-fourth morning after the decampment of his wife, Patty LA dark, brilliant novel of astonishing pitch, set in Provincetown, a "spit of shrub and dune" captured here in the rawness and melancholy of the off-season, "Tough Guys Don't Dance" is the story of Tim Madden, an unsuccessful writer addicted to bourbon, cigarettes, and blonde, careless women with money. On the twenty-fourth morning after the decampment of his wife, Patty Lareine, he awakens with a hangover, considerable sexual excitement, and, on his upper arm, a red tattoo bearing a name from the past. Of the night before, he remembers practically nothing. What he soon learns is that the front passenger seat of his Porsche is soaked with blood and that in a secluded corner of his marijuana stash in a nearby woods rests a blonde head, severed at the throat.
Is Madden therefore a murderer? He has no way of knowing. As in many novels of crime, the narrative centers on violence--physical, sexual, and emotional--but these elements move in their orbits through a rich constellation of character as Madden tries to reconstruct the missing hours of a terrible evening. In the course of this in-quiry a bizarre and vividly etched gallery of characters reappears to him as in a dream--ex-prizefighters, sexual junkies, mediums, former cons, a police chief, a world-weary former girl friend, and Mad-den's father, old now but still a Herculean figure, a practitioner of the sternest backroom ethics.
"Tough Guys Don't Dance" represents Mailer at the peak of his powers with a stunningly conceived novel that soon transcends its origins as a mystery to become a relentless search into the recesses and buried virtues of the modern American male. Rarely, as many readers will discern, have the paradoxes ofmachismo and homosexuality been so well explored....more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 10th 2002 by Random House (first published 1984)