By James Simons
THE NIGHTOWLS OF COVENTRY
Starring Seymour Horowitz, Donna Casey. Written and directed by Laura C Paglin. (PG) 75 min.
In The Nightowls Of Coventry, a pleasant, sentimental film about the various patrons of a Cleveland deli in 1973, writer-director Laura Paglin attempts to craft characters who are not only natural and unique, but are also representative of their clashing generational stereotypes. She tends to balance these extremes well when dealing with the older characters: the wonderful Seymour Horowitz brings a subtle sadness to Marv, the deli's gambling- and waitress-addicted owner. Also, Yosha (Leon Holster) is an intriguing Holocaust survivor who constantly stuffs his face so as to "make up for lost food."
Paglin doesn't bring the same depth and detail to the younger generation, employing stock That-'70s-Movie types for comic effect. Ben Bruening is a riot as an outspoken Marxist who vehemently tells an elderly patron that the capitalist pigs have brainwashed him into liking tea biscuits. But it's hard to foster an emotional connection with a caricature, and loud-mouthed loiterer Doug (Paddy Connor) represents the era's diverse counter-cultural youth movement with as much authenticity and subtlety as a 2005 Volkswagen Bug with tie-dyed seat covers. (In one contrived scene, he returns to his divided family's doorstep - cue torrential rain and tears - only to have his father blame him for the death of his brother in Vietnam. Add whiny Winnie Cooper and this could be an outtake from The Wonder Years).
The Nightowls Of Coventry at least proves, in its modest, low-budget way, that boomer nostalgia has grown up enough to view those turbulent times with a reassuring dash of empathy and wisdom.