Why hasn’t Paul Reiser starred in a Woody Allen movie yet?

Yes, a quick internet search reveals that he was in an Allen play, “Writer’s Block,” which sort of counts. But it doesn’t count completely. I long for a permanent filmic recording of Reiser going full neurotic.

Diner is very nearly that. As Modell, he is a surrogate Woody, providing both the comic relief and the voice of reason in a circle of friends who are mostly rooted in reality. I love all the other adorable dudes in this cast, but Reiser edges them out for Most Charming because he’s more of a minor player — and thus leaves us wanting more.

Now for those other adorable dudes. Steve Gutenberg is Eddie Simmons, the soon-to-be husband of the never-seen Elyse, and he has a hell of a grin and a hellish attitude toward his mother. But there’s something about Barry Levinson’s relatable, non-sequitur-filled writing (and the cast’s improvising, I’m sure) that makes me ignore his cockiness and, instead, revel in it.

The same thing goes for Kevin Bacon’s Fen — he’s sweet, stupid and troubled, all wrapped into one, the guy who’s easy enough to let go of because he’s too much agony to deal with, but hard to let go of because he’s impossible not to care about. Current — crispy, you might say — Bacon’s roles have been hardened, unemotional, stoic in the face of challenges, so it’s nice to check back in on the early 80s and remind ourselves of what a softie he was.

I also enjoyed Tim Daly as Billy, though I found his early-80s mien indistinguishable from present-day Chris Hardwick’s. (That’s a compliment to both.) I equated Daniel Stern’s Shrevie with a hybrid of Josh Charles and Ben Schwartz, too, also flatteringly. Finally, though, Mickey Rourke blew my goddamn mind as Boogie. He rolls in right at the end here:

I didn’t even know it was Rourke until I looked it up. I hate to be superficial for a second, but I must: DREAMBOAT ALERT. MY GOD.

I’m back. That scene is exemplary of the movie as a whole. There’s love in the pointless banter, and poetry, too. As these gents gear up for Eddie’s wedding, they cover a lot of emotional ground. It’s pretty unrealistic how much ground they cover, considering the movie is supposed to take place over the course of a single night, but disbelief is worth suspending in this case. I think coming-of-age movies are at their best when they’re simplified, when they focus on a particular event rather than trying to span decades of growth. The growth happens in bursts, in meaningful moments, mostly around a plate of fries at a diner.

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