The Gig (1985)
FILM: 'THE GIG,' BY FRANK D. GILROY
By JANET MASLIN
Published: November 26, 1985
"THE GIG," by Frank D. Gilroy, is a small-scale, big-hearted comedy about a group of middle-aged men who enjoy one last fling with freedom and artistic fulfillment, in the form of a two-week Catskills engagement for their amateur Dixieland band. The situation is loaded with potential for soddenness - indeed, several group members are teary-eyed 10 minutes into the story - but on the whole, the film is a nice surprise.
Its characters are on the familiar side and its jokes not exactly new, but "The Gig," which opens today at the 57th Street Playhouse, still manages to have a certain sweetness. It may not provide the cross-section of masculine attitudes that Mr. Gilroy apparently intends, but it has an easy, good-natured flavor. Not much happens to any of the principals, but in a way that's a blessing, since the story always seems to be teetering on the brink of cliched revelations. There is the moment, for instance, when the dentist in the group (who is also the lonely bachelor, much too zealously devoted to his mother) begins to say that an awful lot is revealed about human nature by the way people behave in the dentist's chair. Fortunately, whenever Mr. Gilroy approaches this sort of insight, he soon has the good sense to back away.
The band members are first seen having fun at one of their frequent rehearsals, as they apparently have been doing for years. ("How many years have we been playing together, once a week?" Mr. Gilroy has one of the characters ask, as part of the none too graceful exposition.) Then along comes an offer for their first professional job, and the musicians are stunned by this new development. One reveals that he is too ill to go (hence the above-mentioned tears); another must lie to his wife in order to get away; a third leaves home easily because he's married to a woman whose wealthy father set him up in the real-estate business, and he can't stand his home life anyway. Mr. Rogers, as the used-car salesman who's the sharp dresser in the group, has the corniest getaway scene, with the woman beside him in bed sobbing uncontrollably over his two-week absence. "Where you going?" she asks as he finally gets up to leave. "Home - my wife didn't make half this fuss!" is the answer.
There's a muted, moderate quality to "The Gig"; for instance, the resort in the Catskills isn't half as awful as might be anticipated, and the men's fellowship isn't nearly as intense. However, the otherwise all-white band members have a friendly rapport, even when the group is joined by a black bassist (Cleavon Little) who insists on more money, no smoking and very rarefied working conditions, and who has no interest in being buddies with the others. There is a hint of racial tension at first, but it isn't long before they've all gotten to be pals.
At least the cast is harmonious, the setting quiet ("Everyplace you look, you got scenery!" declares Joe Silver as the too-proud owner of the Catskills hotel), and the feeling that of a pleasantly uneventful vacation. There's some talk, some music, some bicycling and some boating. When it's over, everyone goes home.
Cast: Wayne Rogers, Cleavon Little, Andrew Duncan, Jerry Matz, Daniel Nalbach, Warren Vaché, Joe Silver, Jay Thomas, Stan Lachow, Celia Bressack, Georgia Harrell, Michael Fischetti